EAR INFECTION, OUTER- (Otitis Externa; Swimmer's Ear)
EAR INFECTION, OUTER -(Otitis Externa; Swimmer's Ear)
DESCRIPTIONOuter-ear infection is inflammation or infection of the ear canal that extends from the eardrum to the outside. The skin of the ear canal is involved.
Appropriate health care includes:
Self-care after diagnosis.
Physician's monitoring of general condition and medications. Severe cases may require treatment by an ear, nose and throat specialist.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMSEar pain that worsens when the child's earlobe is pulled.
Slight fever (sometimes).
Discharge of pus from the child's ear.
Temporary loss of hearing on the affected side.
CAUSESSwimming in dirty, polluted water.
Excessive swimming in chlorinated pools. Chlorinated water dries out the ear canal, allowing bacteria or fungi to enter the skin.
Excess moisture from any cause.
Irritation from swabs, metal objects (such as bobby pins), or ear plugs, especially if they are left in a long time.
Inadequate production of protective ear wax (cerumen).
Bacterial or fungal infection of the delicate skin lining of the child's ear canal. Infection may develop because of:
RISK FACTORSPrevious ear infections.
Diabetes mellitus or other disorders that predispose your child to infection.
PREVENTING COMPLICATIONS OR RECURRENCE
Don't clean your child's ears with any object or chemical.
Don't use ear plugs, alcohol in the ears, lamb's wool, or anything else to keep the child's ears dry. These are not only useless--they may be harmful.
Your own observation of symptoms.
Medical history and physical exam by a doctor.
Chronic inflammation that is difficult to cure.
A boil in the child's ear canal.
Cellulitis (deep-tissue infection).
Usually curable with treatment in 7 to 10 days.
Your doctor will probably cleanse the child's ear canal and insert a cotton wick. The wick allows the medication to reach all infected parts.
Moisten the wick with medication every hour for the first 24 hours. Continue to use drops according to your doctor's instructions after the wick is removed from your child's ear.
Clean the tip of the dropper with alcohol after each use. Don't let anyone other than your child use the medicine.
After your child has had otitis externa, keep the prescription ear drops on hand. If the child's ear canals get wet for any reason, such as swimming or shampooing, put drops in both ears at bedtime.
MEDICATIONUse non-prescription drugs, such as acetaminophen or aspirin, for minor pain.
Your doctor may prescribe:
-- Ear drops that contain antibiotics and cortisone drugs to control inflammation and fight infection.
-- Oral antibiotics for severe infection.
-- Codeine or narcotics for a short time to relieve severe pain.
See Medications section for information regarding medicines your doctor may prescribe.
Your child can resume normal activities as soon as symptoms improve. The child should avoid getting water in the ears for 3 weeks after all symptoms disappear. Any moisture--even from showering or washing hair -- can trigger a recurrence.
DIET & FLUIDS
No special diet.
OK TO GO TO SCHOOL?Yes, if comfort permits. This problem is not contagious to other children.
CALL YOUR DOCTOR IF
Your child has symptoms of otitis externa.
The following occurs during treatment:
-- Pain persists, despite treatment.
-- You feel your child's ears need cleaning. Remember that a small amount of ear wax helps protect against infection.