Outer ear infection (otitis externa) can be localized (e.g. furuncle or abscess) or generalized, when it affects the entire lining.
Ear infections often occur after swimming because moist skin is particularly susceptible to any infection that may be present in the water. Another cause of localized and common infection is scratching in the ear to alleviate itching or to remove cerumen. External ear infections are very common, especially in younger adults. Annually, one person per 100 seeks a medical help for this discomfort. If the infection is not treated, it can sometimes spread and affect the cartilage and bone under the ear.
The first symptom is an irritation in the ear, followed by pain. A discharge from he ear is also possible. If the pus blocks the outer ear canal, hearing loss can occur. Every movement (of the ear) causes pain.
Self-help: take a painkiller, e.g. aspirin, and put a piece of warm, dry cotton on your ear to reduce the pain until you go to your doctor.
Professional help: a doctor will look at your ear with a otoscope, and take a pus sample that will be sent to the laboratory for analysis. The ear is first cleansed with a probe and a cotton; this procedure will greatly ease the irritation and pain. Your doctor will then prescribe tablets or ear drops (antibiotic and corticosteroid). Tablets, ear drops and careful daily cleansing of the ear with a piece of cotton should calm the condition. If the pain is severe, your doctor may prescribe a pain reliever until the infection disappears.
The ear must be constantly dry during the infections. That means, you should not swim, and always use a bathing cap while bathing or showering.
Sometimes the infection returns, so it is necessary to continue with the treatment. This often occurs when the cause of infection are fungi or if you are allergic to the microbes. In that case, the doctor will prescribe the corticosteroid cream or ear drops, and your problem will eventually disappear.