Otitis Externa, Swimmer’s Ear

General Illness Information

Common Name:
Otitis Externa, Swimmer’s ear

Medical Term: Otitis Externa.

Description: Inflammation or infection of the external ear canal that extends from the eardrum to the outside.


  • Bacterial or fungal infection of the delicate skin lining of the ear canal.
  • Injury to the ear canal.

Prevention: Avoid preventable risk factors.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Discharge of pus from the ear.
  • Ear pain that worsens when the earlobe is pulled or pressed.
  • Itching in the ear.
  • Slight fever (sometimes).

Risk Factors

  • Swimming in polluted water.
  • Excessive swimming in chlorinated pools. Chlorinated water dries out the ear canal, allowing bacteria or fungi to enter the skin.
  • Immersing ears in hot tub with infected water.
  • Excess moisture from any cause.
  • Irritation from swabs; metal objects, such as bobby pins; or ear plugs, especially if they are left in a long time
  • Inadequate production of protective ear wax (cerumen).
  • Previous ear infections.
  • Skin allergies.
  • Diabetes mellitus or other disorders that predispose to infection.
  • Use of hair spray or hair dye that may enter the ear canal.

Diagnosis & Treatment

Diagnosis made by examination of the ear. Fluid from the ear may occasionally be cultured.

General Measures:

  • Medication and supportive care to relieve pain.
  • Gentle cleaning of the ear canal.
  • Warm compress over the ear may help relieve the pain.
  • Keep the infected ear dry. Wear ear plugs or shower cap for showering.


  • Ear drops that contain antibiotics and cortisone drugs to control inflammation and fight infection
  • Topical creams or ointments for fungal or bacterial infections
  • Oral antibiotics for severe infection.
  • Oral analgesics such as acetaminophen may be used for pain.


Not restricted.


As tolerated. No dietary restriction.

Possible Complications:

  • Severe ear pain.
  • Cellulitis-infection may spread to deeper tissues.
  • Chronic infection.


Excellent with proper treatment.


Nothing specified.

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