An outer ear infection is a condition in which the outer ear canal gets inflamed. Ear canal is a tube that starts from the outer ear and terminates at the eardrum. Also referred to as external otitis, the infection is the result of bacteria or fungus making its way into the ear canal. This infection is usually not worrisome as the swelling only affects the ear canal without causing any damage to the eardrum. As it is commonly diagnosed among swimmers, this condition is also sometimes referred to as swimmer's ear.
The infection is bound to cause persistent ear pain. Also, the person feels like scratching the infected ear, due to the itchy sensation inside the ear canal. However, ear scratching has to be avoided, as it can aggravate the infection.
Outer ear infection can also have a negative impact on the ability to hear properly. The person may experience mild to moderate hearing loss. However, this is a temporary issue and resolves when the infection goes away. The infected ear also appears a bit heavy due to the formation of pus in the ear canal. In most cases, ear discomfort is not bothersome but a severe infection is definitely not easy to handle as the pain does not allow the person to concentrate on his day-to-day activities.
Swimming in unclean water is the primary reason why ear infections occur. A certain degree of contamination is likely to be present in swimming water. But, it should be clean enough, so that when the water accidentally enters the ear, it doesn't cause any infection.
Shampoos entering the ear canal during a shower can also lead to this ear problem. Scratching the ear canal with contaminated fingers is another common reason behind the occurrence of this infection.
Cleaning the Ear
For the treatment to be effective, it becomes necessary to clean the ear canal. The accumulated pus has to be removed so that the medicine works and successfully eliminates the infection. The doctor may use a cotton swab or prefer a suction device to get rid of the pus.
Use of ear drops is the first line of treatment for infections that affect the outer ear. Ear drops are prescribed depending upon the type of infection. A bacterial infection responds quite well to antibiotic ear drops. On the other hand, infection caused by fungus is usually treated with antifungal ear drops. In case of a severe infection, along with ear drops an oral medication may also be prescribed. The doctor may also recommend ear drops containing steroids to decrease the swelling of the ear canal. Using acetic acid or aluminum acetate ear drops can also be a good remedy to get rid of this infection. However, doctors suggest that children less than 3 years of age should not be treated with ear drops that contain acetic acid.
A mixture that contains white vinegar and rubbing alcohol is also useful to treat this infection. In order to prepare this solution, mix these ingredients in equal parts and then with the help of sterilized ear dropper, put some drops of the mixture into the ear. White vinegar is well-known for its antibacterial properties, which helps to kill the germs.
The doctor may advise the patient to take painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to reduce the pain associated with the infection.
In order to speed up healing, one should refrain from doing activities like swimming. Water going inside the ear canal can worsen the infection and therefore one has to be careful enough to ensure that the infected ear does not come in contact with water.
This sort of ear infection can always be prevented by using safety equipment such as ear plugs that prevent water from entering the ear canal. Also, when occasionally scratching the ear gently, make sure that the hands are clean, to prevent any sort of infection. Staying away from swimming pools that are poorly maintained is also very important to keep the ear infections at bay.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.