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Otitis Externa, Ambulatory Care

Otitis externa

, or swimmer's ear, is an infection in the outer ear canal. This canal goes from the outside of the ear to the eardrum.

Common symptoms include the following:

  • Ear pain
  • Outer ear canal is red and swollen
  • Clear fluid or pus is leaking out of your ear
  • Outer ear canal is itchy and you see a rash
  • Trouble hearing because your ear is plugged
  • Feel a bump in your ear canal, called a polyp
  • Flakes of skin fall from your ear

Seek immediate care for the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Severe ear pain
  • Sudden inability to hear at all
  • New swelling in your face, behind your ears, or in your neck
  • Sudden inability to move part of your face
  • Sudden numbness in your face

Treatment for otitis externa

may include any of the following:

  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If you take blood thinner medicine, always ask your healthcare provider if NSAIDs are safe for you. Always read the medicine label and follow directions.
  • Ear drops are a combination of a steroid medicine and an antibiotic. The steroid helps decrease redness, swelling, and pain. The antibiotic helps kill the germs that caused your ear infection.
  • Ear wicking may remove fluid or wax from your outer ear canal. Your healthcare provider may insert a small tube, called a wick, into your ear to help drain fluid. A wick also may be used to put medicine into your ear canal if the canal is blocked.

Follow the steps below to use eardrops:

  • Lie down on your side with your infected ear facing up.
  • Carefully drip the correct number of eardrops into your ear. Have another person help you if possible.
  • Gently move the outside part of your ear back and forth to help the medicine reach your ear canal.
  • Stay lying down in the same position (with your ear facing up) for 3 to 5 minutes.

Prevent otitis externa:

  • Do not put cotton swabs or foreign objects in your ears.
  • Wrap a clean moist washcloth around your finger, and use it to clean your outer ear and remove extra ear wax.
  • Use ear plugs when you swim. Dry your outer ears completely after you swim or bathe.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.