Swimmer's Ear Infection
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
- Swimmer's ear facts
- What is "swimmer's ear" or acute external otitis?
- What are symptoms of swimmer's ear?
- What is chronic swimmer's ear?
- What is the treatment for swimmer's ear?
- How can swimmer's ear be prevented?
- What is the prognosis for swimmer's ear?
- What about swimmer's ear in children?
- Why do ears itch?
- What should I do if I get a foreign object or insect in my ear?
- Ear Infection (Otitis Media) FAQs
- Find a local Ear, Nose, & Throat Doctor in your town
Swimmer's ear facts
- Swimmer's ear, or external otitis, is typically a bacterial infection of the skin of the outer ear canal.
- Swimmer's ear can occur in both acute and chronic forms.
- Excessive water exposure and frequent instrumentation (usually with cotton swabs) of the ear canal are important causative factors.
- Early symptoms include itchy ears, a feeling of fullness, swelling, drainage, and pain.
- Antibiotic ear drops and avoidance of water are frequently necessary for treatment.
- Proper ear care can avoid most infections.
What is "swimmer's ear" or acute external otitis?
External otitis or "swimmer's ear" is an infection of the skin covering the outer ear and ear canal. Acute external otitis is commonly a bacterial infection caused by streptococcus, staphylococcus, or pseudomonas types of bacteria. The swimmer's ear infection is usually caused by excessive water exposure from swimming, diving, surfing, kayaking, or other water sports. When water collects in the ear canal (frequently trapped by wax), the skin can become soggy and serve as an inviting area for bacteria to grow. Cuts or abrasions in the lining of the ear canal (for example, from cotton swab injury) can also predispose to bacterial infection of the ear canal.
What are symptoms of swimmer's ear?
The first symptom of infection is that the ear will feel full, and it may itch. Next, the ear canal will swell, and ear drainage will follow. At this stage the ear will be very painful, especially with movement of the outside portion of the ear. The ear canal can swell shut, and the side of the face can become swollen. Finally, the lymph nodes (glands) of the neck may enlarge, making it difficult or painful to open the jaw. People with swimmer's ear may experience some temporary hearing loss in the affected ear.
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