External Ear Infections or Swimmer’s Ear (Otitis Externa)


Swimmer’s Ear is an infection of the outer ear structures. When water is trapped in the ear canal, bacteria that normally inhabit the skin and ear canal multiply, causing infection and irritation of the ear canal. If the infection progresses it may involve the outer ear.

Symptoms of Swimmer’s Ear

  • Mild to moderate pain that is aggravated by tugging on the outer ear
  • An itchy ear
  • Sensation that the ear is blocked or full
  • Drainage
  • Fever
  • Decreased hearing
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Intense pain that may radiate to the neck, face, or side of the head
  • The outer ear may appear to by pushed forward or away from the skull

Treatment for Swimmer’s Ear

Follow up appointments are very important to monitor progress of the infection, to repeat ear cleaning, and to replace the ear wick as needed.

Treatment for the early stages of swimmer’s ear includes:

  • Careful cleaning of the ear canal
  • Ear drops that inhibit bacterial growth.
  • Mild acid solutions such as Boric or Acetic Acid are effective for early infections.
  • For more severe infections, if you do not have a perforated eardrum, ear cleaning may be helped by antibiotics and topical steroids.
  • If the ear canal is swollen shut, a sponge or wick may be placed in the ear canal so that the antibiotic drops will be effective.
  • Pain medication may also be prescribed.