BACK TOTOP Browse A-ZSearchBrowse A-ZABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ0-9 E-mail FormEmail ResultsName:Email address:Recipients Name:Recipients address:Message: Print-FriendlyBookmarksbookmarks-menuSwimmer's ear Ear infection - outer ear - acute; Otitis externa - acute; Chronic swimmer's ear; Otitis externa - chronic; Ear infection - outer ear - chronicSwimmer's ear is inflammation, irritation, or infection of the outer ear and ear canal. The medical term for swimmer's ear is otitis externa.Swimmer's ear may be sudden and short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic). AcuteAcute means sudden or severe. Acute symptoms appear, change, or worsen rapidly. It is the opposite of chronic.ImageRead Article Now Book Mark Article Causes Swimmer's ear is more common among children in their teens and young adults. It may occur with a middle ear infection or a respiratory infection such as a cold.Swimming in unclean water can lead to swimmer's ear. Bacteria commonly often found in water can cause ear infections. Rarely, the infection may be caused by a fungus.Other causes of swimmer's ear include:Scratching the ear or inside the ear Getting something stuck in the earTrying to clean (wax from the ear canal) with cotton swabs or small objects can damage the skin.Wax from the ear canalThe ear canal is lined with hair follicles. The ear canal also has glands that produce a waxy oil called cerumen. The wax will most often make its ...ImageRead Article Now Book Mark Article Long-term (chronic) swimmer's ear may be due to:Allergic reaction to something placed in the ear Chronic skin conditions, such as eczema or psoriasisEczemaAtopic dermatitis is a long-term (chronic) skin disorder that involves scaly and itchy rashes. It is a type of eczema. Other forms of eczema include...ImageRead Article Now Book Mark Article PsoriasisPsoriasis is a skin condition that causes skin redness, silvery scales, and irritation. Most people with psoriasis have thick, red, well-defined pat...ImageRead Article Now Book Mark Article Symptoms Symptoms of swimmer's ear include:Drainage from the ear -- yellow, yellow-green, pus-like, or foul smelling Drainage from the earEar discharge is drainage of blood, ear wax, pus, or fluid from the ear.ImageRead Article Now Book Mark Article Ear pain, which may get worse when you pull on the outer ear Ear painAn earache is a sharp, dull, or burning pain in one or both ears. The pain may last a short time or be ongoing. Related conditions include:Otitis m...ImageRead Article Now Book Mark Article Hearing loss Hearing lossHearing loss is being partly or totally unable to hear sound in one or both ears.ImageRead Article Now Book Mark Article Itching of the ear or ear canal Exams and Tests The health care provider will look inside your ears. The ear canal area will look red and swollen. The skin inside the ear canal may be scaly or shedding.Touching or moving the outer ear will increase the pain. The eardrum may be hard to see because of a swelling in the outer ear. The eardrum may have a hole in it. This is called a perforation.A sample of fluid may be removed from the ear and sent to a lab to look for bacteria or fungus. Treatment In most cases, you will need to use ear antibiotic drops for 10 to 14 days. If the ear canal is very swollen, a wick may be put into the ear. The wick will allow the drops to travel to the end of the canal. Your provider can show you how to do this.Other treatments may include:Antibiotics taken by mouth if you have a middle ear infection or infection that spreads beyond the ear Corticosteroids to reduce itching and inflammation Pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) Vinegar (acetic acid) ear dropsPeople with chronic swimmer's ear may need long-term or repeated treatment. This will to avoid complications.Placing something warm against the ear may reduce pain. Outlook (Prognosis) Swimmer's ear most often gets better with the proper treatment. Possible Complications The infection may spread to other areas around the ear, including the skull bone. In older people or those who have diabetes, the infection may become severe. This condition is called malignant otitis externa. This condition is treated with high-dose antibiotics given through a vein. When to Contact a Medical Professional Call your provider if:You develop any symptoms of swimmer's ear You notice any drainage coming from your ears Your symptoms get worse or continue despite treatment You have new symptoms, such as fever or pain and redness of the skull behind the ear Prevention These steps can help protect your ears from further damage:DO NOT scratch the ears or insert cotton swabs or other objects in the ears. Keep ears clean and dry, and DO NOT let water enter the ears when showering, shampooing, or bathing. Dry your ear very well after it has gotten wet. Avoid swimming in polluted water. Use earplugs when swimming. Try mixing 1 drop of alcohol with 1 drop of white vinegar and placing the mixture into the ears after they get wet. The alcohol and acid in the vinegar help prevent bacterial growth.Open ReferencesReferencesAmerican Speech-Language Hearing Association website. Swimmer's ear (otitis externa). www.asha.org/public/hearing/Swimmers-Ear/. Accessed September 2, 2020.Haddad J, Dodhia SN. External otitis (otitis externa). In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 657.Naples JG, Brant JA, Ruckenstein MJ. Infections of the external ear. In: Flint PW, Francis HW, Haughey BH, et al, eds. Cummings Otolaryngology: Head and Neck Surgery. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 138.AllVideoImagesTogEar anatomy - illustration The ear consists of external, middle, and inner structures. The eardrum and the 3 tiny bones conduct sound from the eardrum to the cochlea.Ear anatomyillustrationMedical findings based on ear anatomy - illustration The external structures of the ear may aid in diagnosing some conditions by the presence or absence of normal landmarks and abnormal features including earlobe creases, preauricular pits, and preauricular tags.Medical findings based on ear anatomyillustrationSwimmer's ear - illustration Swimmers ear is an infection of the skin lining the ear canal. Bacteria can enter the skin of the ear canal and cause an infection through a scratch, injury from a foreign object, or if the ear is wet for a prolonged period of time. Swimmers ear is more common in pre-school and school-age children. Symptoms include itching and pain in the ear canal, which is often accompanied by a small amount of clear discharge.Swimmer's earillustrationEar anatomy - illustration The ear consists of external, middle, and inner structures. The eardrum and the 3 tiny bones conduct sound from the eardrum to the cochlea.Ear anatomyillustrationMedical findings based on ear anatomy - illustration The external structures of the ear may aid in diagnosing some conditions by the presence or absence of normal landmarks and abnormal features including earlobe creases, preauricular pits, and preauricular tags.Medical findings based on ear anatomyillustrationSwimmer's ear - illustration Swimmers ear is an infection of the skin lining the ear canal. Bacteria can enter the skin of the ear canal and cause an infection through a scratch, injury from a foreign object, or if the ear is wet for a prolonged period of time. Swimmers ear is more common in pre-school and school-age children. Symptoms include itching and pain in the ear canal, which is often accompanied by a small amount of clear discharge.Swimmer's earillustrationRelated Information Ear infection - acute(Condition)Common cold(Condition)Malignant otitis externa(Condition)Ear infections(In-Depth)Colds and the flu(In-Depth) Review Date: 8/29/2020 Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team. The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- © 1997- All rights reserved. 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