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What To Do For An Outer Ear Infection

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What Happens If An Ear Infection Is Left Untreated

How To Treat Outer Ear Infections

Fluid buildup in the ear can be damaging even if theres no infection and may lead to a ruptured eardrum and hearing loss. So, its important to see the doctor if symptoms remain after finishing the antibiotics. Theyll likely want to take a look in your ear and learn more about your symptoms.

Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may recommend you see an ear, nose and throat doctor. The ENT doctor may recommend surgery to place small metal or plastic tubes in the ear canal to make it easier for the fluid to drain out. Your doctor may also recommend ear tube surgery for your child if they have recurrent ear infections.

Treat And Prevent Other Skin Conditions

  • If you develop otitis externa and you have allergies, tell your GP or practice nurse. Ear drops that contain certain substances, such as neomycin, are more likely to cause an allergic reaction. Your GP, practice nurse or pharmacist can advise you about which ear drops are most suitable for you.
  • If you have an allergic reaction to anything that is placed inside your ears, such as hearing aids, earplugs or earrings, remove the item. A mild allergic reaction will usually clear up on its own. Using hypoallergenic products may also help.
  • Seek medical advice for any other skin conditions, such as psoriasis or eczema, so they can be treated using the right medication.
  • Try using acidifying ear drops or spray to help keep your ears clean, particularly before and after swimming. These are available without a prescription in most pharmacies and may help to prevent otitis externa recurring.

See Your Doctor For Earache

The ear canal is very delicate. Its never a good idea to put anything in your ear that hasnt been prescribed.

See your doctor if you or a family member especially a child has earache.

Your doctor may prescribe medicines to treat the cause of the earache. Sometimes a medical procedure or surgery may be needed.

Get back to your doctor quickly if you have:

  • new discharge from your ear canal
  • dizziness, nausea, vomiting or vertigo
  • a severe headache, stiff neck or really bad pain in the ear.

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Why Do People Get Swimmers Ear

Most of the time, your ear fights off the germs that cause swimmerâs ear on its own. You can thank your earwax for that. While it doesnât get much respect, earwax helps protect the ear canal from damage and makes it hard for germs to grow.

But if the skin gets scratched, germs can get into your ear canal and cause an infection. Some common reasons you may get swimmerâs ear are:

Sticking stuff in your ear. If you use cotton swabs, fingers, hairpins, pen caps, or anything else to clean your ears, it can rub away the protective earwax or scratch your skin. Even ear buds, earplugs, and hearing aids can have this effect, especially if you use them a lot.

Moisture trapped in your ear. When water gets stuck in your ear canal after swimmingâ or after you soak in a hot tub or even take a shower or bath â it can remove some of the earwax and soften the skin, which makes it easier for germs to get in.

Humid weather and sweat can cause the same problem. Germs like a warm, wet place to grow, so moisture trapped in your ear is perfect for them.

Other things can play a role in swimmerâs ear, like:

Your age. While swimmerâs ear can happen to anyone, itâs most common in kids and early teenagers.

Narrow ear canals. Kids often have ear canals that are small and donât drain as well.

Skin reactions and conditions. Sometimes hair products, cosmetics, and jewelry can irritate your skin and raise the odds of getting swimmerâs ear. So can skin problems like eczema and psoriasis.

Fever In Young Infants

Learning The Truths

If a baby younger than 3 months old has a rectal temperature or forehead temperature of 100.4 F or higher, they need to go to the emergency room, even if there are no other symptoms.

For infants age 6 months or older, toddlers, and older children: Acetaminophen or ibuprofen are options.

Never give children aspirin, as it puts them at risk of a rare but serious condition known as Reye’s syndrome.

For adults: Acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen can help. Neither aspirin nor naproxen should be given to children unless directed by a healthcare provider.

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What’s The Difference Between The Middle Ear Infections We Get As Children Versus The Middle Ear Infections We Get As Adults

Dr. Wang: The underlying causes are usually different. They are more frequent in children because their shorter, more horizontal Eustachian tubes are more likely to get blocked. Also, their adenoids are larger compared to the rest of the throat and can interfere with the opening of the Eustachian tubes. And finally, children’s immune systems are immature and colds and viruses are often passed around day care and school.

Swimmers Ear: How To Keep Ear Infections At Bay This Summer

Summer in Houston means hot, humid weather. Many families are heading to their local swimming pools, lakes, beaches and waterparks to find relief from the sweltering heat. As more and more children engage in water activities this summer, its not unusual to see an uptick in cases of acute otitis externa.

Commonly referred to as swimmers ear, otitis externa is an outer ear infection that is common in children who spend a lot of time in the water. When excess moisture is trapped in the ear, it can irritate and break down the skin in the narrow ear canal, creating a perfect environment for bacteria to grow and multiply. When an infection occurs in the outer ear, your child may experience symptoms including ear pain, swelling, redness and itchiness inside the ear. Fluid drainage and hearing loss also can occur.

While some children can swim all summer long and not get swimmers ear, others can develop an outer ear infection after a bath or shower if too much moisture remains in the ear. If your child has a naturally curvy and narrow ear canal, its more likely water can get trapped after any type of water exposure.

During the summertime, many concerned parents ask me, What can I do to prevent swimmers ear? Ive compiled several tips parents can follow to protect their childs ears and keep ear infections at bay.

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Do You Need Antibiotics

Your physician may recommend a watch-and-see approach rather than prescribing antibiotics right away. Typically, you will keep an eye on symptoms for three days to see if they improve. This approach usually is used for children whose ear infections cannot be definitively diagnosed or who are under the age of 2.

If the infection does not clear up, you will need antibiotics. In some cases, a doctor will write you a prescription just in case the infection does not clear up.

If the ear infection is caused by a virus, antibiotics will not be prescribed because they do not work against viruses. Relieving symptoms while keeping an eye on the progression of the infection is the best course of treatment for a viral ear infection.

What Can I Do To Prevent Swimmer’s Ear

What Is an Outer Ear Infection? | Ear Problems

To help prevent swimmer’s ear, try the following:

  • Keep your ears as dry as possible.
  • Use ear plugs when you are swimming or showering.
  • Dont scratch or clean your ear canal with cotton swabs, your fingers, or other objects.

To dry your ears well after swimming or showering, try these tips:

  • Tilt your head to each side to help drain water out of your ears.
  • With your ear facing down, pull your earlobe in different directions. This will help drain water out.
  • Gently dry your ears with the edge of a towel.
  • Use a hair dryer on the lowest or coolest setting to gently dry your ears. Hold the dryer at least 12 inches from your head. Wave the dryer slowly back and forth. Don’t hold it still.

Your health care provider may recommend drops to help dry your ears.

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Lymph Node Inflammation Behind The Ear

There are lymph nodes behind the ear. Lymph nodes are where your immune cells live, and when they become enlarged, it could be from a nearby infection, immune response, or even backlog of blood.

You should see your primary care doctor tomorrow for a sick visit. There, the doctor can look at what could explain the enlarged node behind your ear.

Cleaning Your Ear Canal

If earwax or loose material is blocking your ear canal, it can stop ear drops from working properly.

If you think you have too much earwax, you shouldnt try to remove it yourself. Using cotton buds or other objects to try to clean earwax out of your ears can push it further inside and block your ear. You might also damage the skin inside your ear canal, which can lead to an ear infection.

Instead, your GP may suggest one of the following methods to clean your ear canal before you use ear drops. Sometimes they may need to refer you to a specialist in ear, nose and throat conditions for these procedures.

  • Syringing and irrigation. This gently washes out any earwax and debris blocking your ear canal.
  • Dry swabbing. This means using dry cotton swabs to gently remove any loose material from your ear canal.
  • Microsuction. This involves using a device to gently suction out wax and any other material from your ear. Your doctor or another trained specialist will do this procedure using a microscope or special camera to view your ear.

If your ear canal is very swollen, your doctor may suggest inserting an ear wick into your ear. This can only be done by a specialist. An ear wick is a small sponge pad. Once its in your ear, it can be soaked with an antibiotic solution. This allows drops to fall deep into your ear. The wick is usually left in place for at least a couple of days. Generally, your doctor or nurse will remove it but it may fall out on its own.

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How To Use Them

The dosage, type, and frequency of doses depend on the type of medication, the age of the person, their weight, and other mitigating factors such as medical history.

If a child is under age 2 or has never taken this medication before, contact their healthcare provider before administering it.

For children and adults, follow the directions on the package carefully.

What Can I Do To Feel Better


At home, follow your doctor’s directions for using ear drops and take all doses of antibiotic medicine as prescribed. Keep taking these for all days of treatment, even if you start to feel better. If you stop too soon, the infection could come back.

You can take acetaminophen or ibuprofen for ear pain. If they don’t help, let your doctor know. You’ll only need pain medicine for a day or two until the ear drops and antibiotics begin to work.

To protect your ear while it heals, your doctor will probably tell you to keep your ears dry for several days or weeks even while showering or shampooing! This can be tough, but your doctor can give you suggestions on how to do this, such as using a cotton ball covered in petroleum jelly as an earplug.

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Causes And Risk Factors

Outer ear infections are usually caused by . They are sometimes caused by a fungus, such as a yeast, but thats less common. Viral illnesses like the flu or a certain type of shingles may also lead to an outer ear infection. And sometimes allergic reactions for instance, to a shampoo are to blame.

Outer ear infections are also often called “swimmer’s ear” because germs can easily get into the ear canal while you’re swimming. This means that people who swim a lot are more likely to get outer ear infections.

Minor injuries to the ear for instance, through the use of cotton ear buds to clean your ear, or regularly wearing headphones that you stick inside your ear can increase the risk too. People who have already had an outer ear infection or are generally prone to infections are also more likely to get outer ear infections.

What Causes Otitis Externa

Otitis externa is an infection of the skin of the ear canal and is very common. The ear canal is a narrow, warm, blind-ended tunnel, which makes it a good protected environment for germs to grow in if they are given a chance. Most infections are caused by a germ . Occasionally, they can be due to a fungal or yeast infection.

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What Are The Symptoms Of Swimmer’s Ear

Each persons symptoms may vary. The following are the most common symptoms of swimmer’s ear:

  • Redness of the outer ear
  • An itch in the ear
  • Pain, often when touching or wiggling your earlobe
  • Pus draining from your ear. This may be yellow or yellow-green, and it may smell.
  • Swollen glands in your neck
  • Swollen ear canal
  • Muffled hearing or hearing loss
  • A full or plugged-up feeling in the ear
  • Fever

The symptoms of swimmer’s ear may look like other health problems. Always see your healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

Any Other Recent Innovations In The Treatment Of Ear Infections

How Do Doctors Treat Outer Ear Infections?

Dr. Wang: There’s a procedure I’ve been doing for a few years called Eustachian tube dilation. Using endoscopic guidance through the nose, you insert a balloon in the Eustachian tube, blow it up and leave it there for up to two minutes. This can address the Eustachian tube dysfunction that leads to middle ear infections. I’ve found it works in about 50% of patients, so it doesn’t work for everyone. But it’s so noninvasive, it’s a good place to start with certain patients who are good candidates for it. There’s also a new drug that is almost like a gel that you can squirt into the ear canal. It slowly dissolves and may be easier to get into those really clogged areas than traditional drops.

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What Are Symptoms Of An Inner Ear Infection

There are two types of inner infections:

  • Vestibular neuritis is an infection of the vestibule and semicircular canals.

  • Labyrinthitis is an infection of the entire inner ear, including the cochlea.

Unlike middle and outer ear infections, pain is not a symptom of inner ear infections. Vestibular neuritis leads to dizziness, nausea and vomiting, and inability to balance. This is called vertigo and can often make you feel as if the room is spinning. Vertigo is often worse when you move your head, stand up, or try to walk. Getting out of bed and walking to the bathroom might feel impossible.

Labrynthitis can lead to vertigo, just like vestibular neuritis. But because it also affects the cochlea, it can lead to hearing changes as well. This can be a ringing in the ears or temporarily decreased hearing. Sometimes the hearing loss is subtle, and you might not realize your hearing is different.

Frequently Asked Questions About Outer Ear Infections

  • What is the best way to apply ear drops?What is the best way to apply ear drops?

    Youll need to lie down while you put ear drops in, and it can help to have someone else put them in for you.

  • Make sure the ear drops are at room temperature before you use them because cold drops can make you feel dizzy. You can warm them in your hand or pocket first.
  • Lie down so that your infected ear is pointing upwards.
  • Apply the ear drops into your ear.
  • Gently pulling and pushing your ear may help the drops to get into your ear.
  • Try to remain lying down for three to five minutes.
  • Read Also: Can Ear Infection Cause Neck And Head Pain

    Preventing Outer Ear Infection

    The following tips can help to reduce your risk of having an outer ear infection.

    • Try to keep the inside of your ears dry by keeping shampoo and water out of your ears when youre having a shower or a bath. Dry your ears with a dry towel or hair dryer afterwards.
    • Dont use cotton buds or other objects to clean your ear canal.
    • Use ear plugs and/or a tight-fitting swimming cap when you go swimming, to prevent water getting in your ears. Dont swim in polluted water.
    • Consider using acidic drops before and after swimming if youre prone to outer ear infections. You can buy these from a pharmacy.
    • If you have a skin condition such as eczema or psoriasis, make sure you keep it under control as much as possible.
    • If you have a build-up of earwax, see a doctor or nurse to check if you need to get it removed. Dont try to do it yourself.

    What Are The Symptoms Of Outer Ear Infection

    Ear Tube Drainage from Middle Ear Infection

    Often only one ear is affected. Symptoms affect your ear and surrounding area, including:

    • ear pain or pain when moving your ear or jaw
    • itchiness and irritation in or around the ear canal
    • swelling and redness of the ear canal and surrounding area
    • peeling skin inside and around the outside ear
    • fluid from your ear, often with a bad smell
    • hearing loss.

    A very rare but dangerous complication is malignant otitis externa. This is the spread of infection to the bones of your ear canal and lower part of your skull. If you have an outer ear infection and experience strange symptoms, such as dizziness or muscular weakness in your face, seek immediate medical help.

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