Otitis externa, commonly known as "swimmer's ear," is an inflammatory condition that affects the outer ear canal, which is the portion of the ear between the visible part of the ear (pinna) and the eardrum. It often occurs due to moisture getting trapped in the ear canal, providing an environment conducive to bacterial or fungal growth. While it's called swimmer's ear because it can be triggered by water exposure, it can also develop from other causes.
While anyone can get swimmer’s ear, it is most often seen in children. Swimmer’s ear cannot be spread from one person to another.
Symptoms of otitis externa may include the following progressing from mild to severe:
Ear pain or discomfort, often worsened by tugging on the ear or moving the jaw
Itching in the ear canal
Swelling of the ear canal
Redness and inflammation of the ear canal
Discharge from the ear, which can be clear, yellow, or pus-like
Temporary hearing loss due to ear canal blockage
Redness or swelling of your outer ear
Swelling in the lymph nodes in your neck
To prevent swimmer's ear:
Dry your ears thoroughly after swimming or bathing
Tilt your head to the side to help water drain from the ear canal
Avoid inserting objects into the ear canal
Use earplugs designed to keep water out when swimming
If you suspect you have otitis externa, it's important to consult a healthcare professional, such as an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) specialist. They can accurately diagnose the condition, provide appropriate treatment, and ensure that it doesn't lead to complications or spread to other areas.