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|The Ear Canal|
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- Frequent swimming in chlorinated water, stagnant water, or increasingly warm water
- Not rinsing all of the soap from the ear canal while showering or bathing
- Younger age with narrow ear canals
- Insertion of any object into the ear canal causing damage to the lining
- Skin conditions, such as eczema, that cause breaks in the skin of the ear canal
- Eardrum rupture from a middle ear infection— otitis media
- Medical conditions resulting in a compromised immune system
- Redness and/or itching inside the ear canal
- Pain in the ear, sometimes severe, that may worsen when chewing or talking, and with pulling on the ear
- Hearing loss or a plugged-up or pressure sensation of the ear
- Drainage from the ear
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) taken orally to reduce pain and inflammation
- Antibiotic ear drops to treat any infection
- Oral antifungal medications to treat fungal infections
- Oral antibiotics to treat severe infections or cellulitis of the ear canal
- Corticosteroid ear drops to reduce inflammation (this may be combined with an antibiotic ear drop)
- Intravenous antibiotics for malignant otitis externa
- Infection that has spread to the base of the skull
- Bone abscess
- Failure of other treatment methods
- Keep the ear dry for 7 to 10 days
- Take baths instead of showers
- Avoid swimming
- Avoid rubbing or scratching the ear or inside the ear canal
- Avoid using hearing aids or earplugs until you are healed
- Avoid swimming in unclean water.
- Thoroughly drain and dry the ear and ear canal after swimming or showering.
- When showering, gently place a cotton ball lightly coated with petroleum jelly into the outer ear to prevent water collection.
- Do not insert anything into the ear canal, including your finger or cotton swabs.
- Do not remove ear wax. If you are having problems hearing, see a doctor first.
- Avoid using ear plugs since they can irritate the lining of the ear canal and can trap water inside the ear.
- Consider using a tight-fitting swimming cap.
- Use a white vinegar/rubbing alcohol eardrop solution following swimming, or glycerin drops before and after swimming. This will help restore the natural healthy environment inside the ear canal.
American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery http://www.entnet.org
Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians http://familydoctor.org
Canadian Society of Otolaryngology http://www.entcanada.org
Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca
Block SL. Otitis externa: providing relief while avoiding complications. J Family Practice. 2005;54(8):669-676.
National Center for Emergency Medicine Informatics. Otitis externa (swimmer's ear). National Center for Emergency Medicine Informatics website. Available at: http://www.ncemi.org/cse/cse0302.htm. Accessed August 21, 2014.
Otitis externa. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 9, 2014. Accessed August 21, 2014.
Rutka J. Acute otitis externa: treatment perspectives. Ear Nose Throat J. 2004;83(9 Suppl 4):20-21;discussion 21-22.
Swimmer’s ear. American Academy of Otolaryngology—Head and Neck Surgery website. Available at: http://www.entnet.org/content/swimmers-ear. Updated December 2010. Accessed August 21, 2014.
Swimmer’s ear (otitis externa). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/rwi/illnesses/swimmers-ear.html. Updated February 15, 2013. Accessed August 21, 2014.
- Reviewer: Michael Woods, MD
- Review Date: 08/2014
- Update Date: 09/30/2013