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Swimmer's ear
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Swimmer's ear

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Infection of the lining to the ear canal is a condition known as otitis
externa or `swimmer`s ear`.
Swimmer's ear is an inflammation, irritation, or infection of the outer ear and ear canal. It can be associated with middle ear infection (otitis media) or an upper respiratory infection, such as a cold. Excess moisture inside your ear caused by these common infections can make your outer ear susceptible to infection as well.

Treatment

The goal of treating swimmer's ear is to clear up the infection. Treatment may include:

  • Cleaning. Clearing your outer ear and ear canal of any drainage and flaky skin allows topical medications to work more effectively. Your doctor performs this procedure with a suction device or a cotton-tipped probe. To prevent further irritation or injury, don't clean inside your own ear unless instructed to do so by your doctor.

  • Topical medications. Your doctor may prescribe eardrops containing antibiotics to fight infection and corticosteroids to reduce itching and inflammation. Use eardrops abundantly (four to five drops at a time) to penetrate the end of your ear canal. If your ear canal is swollen, your doctor may insert a special wick in your ear to allow the drops to reach the end of your ear canal.

  • Oral medications. In some cases, doctors suggest using oral medications in addition to topical treatments. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), may help ease severe ear pain. Ask your doctor which over-the-counter pain medication is best for you.

During treatment for swimmer's ear, don't swim. Taking a shower may be acceptable if you clear all water from your ear afterward. Discuss your bathing habits with your doctor.

 

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This information is provided for general medical education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient's medical condition.
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Last Modified : 03/15/08 02:22 AM