Dr. M.J. Bazos, MD. Patient Handout

About Your Diagnosis

Otitis externa is an infection or inflammation of the outer ear canal (from the eardrum to the outer opening). It can be caused by bacteria or a fungus that infects the lining of the ear canal. The infection can come from swimming in contaminated water or from inflammation caused by an allergy to hair spray. It can also be caused by the regular use of earphones, which can trap moisture in the ear canal. It usually lasts 7–10 days with treatment.

Living With Your Diagnosis
Signs and symptoms include pain in the ear that worsens when the earlobe is pulled; itching of the ear canal; foul-smelling drainage from the ear; a slight fever; and temporary hearing loss on the affected side because of the swelling of the canal or drainage.

Eardrops are prescribed that contain antibiotics and cortisone to control the inflammation and fight infection. Oral antibiotics may be needed if the infection is severe. Use nonprescription medications such as Tylenol or Advil for minor pain. Avoid getting the ear canal wet for 3 days after all symptoms
disappear. Warm compresses may also help ease the pain.

The DOs
• Use eardrops as directed.
• Take a nonprescription medication for pain.
• Gently clean the outer ear daily to remove drainage.
• Keep water out of the ear.

The DON’Ts
• Don’t irritate the ear by cleaning or scratching the ear with swabs, bobby pins, or other sharp objects.
• Don’t swim in lakes that could be polluted. Lakes with large populations of duck or geese can be polluted from their droppings.
• Don’t swim or get water in the ear for at least 3 days after the symptoms disappear.

When to Call Your Doctor
• If pain continues after treatment has begun.
• If pain become severe and is not relieved by nonprescription medications.
• If a high fever develops after treatment has started.