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Everything You Need To Know About Otitis Externa (Swimmer’s Ear)

Otitis Externa (also known as “swimmer’s ear”) is an infection in the ear canal that results in 2.4 million health care visits every year. Here’s everything you need to know about this common infection.

1) Otitis Externa is Different Than Otitis Media.

Otitis media is a middle ear infection that often happens in children under age 5. Otitis externa, however, is an infection of the skin in the ear canal that can happen at any age.

2) Otitis Externa is Usually Caused by Water in the Ear Canal.

The reason otitis externa is known as "swimmer’s ear" is because it often happens when water gets trapped in the ear canal and becomes infected. But even if you haven’t been swimming you can still get otitis externa, because getting water in your ear from a shower or a bath can also lead to an infection.

3) Otitis Externa Has Several Key Symptoms.

The symptoms of otitis externa include ear pain, discomfort when tugging on the ear lobe, ear fullness, muffled hearing, discharge from the ear, and, in rare cases, a fever.

4) Otitis Externa Can Usually Be Easily Treated.

Otitis externa is usually treated with a course of antibiotic ear drops. In severe cases, sometimes an oral antibiotic will also be prescribed.

5) Otitis Externa Can Often Be Prevented.

There are several steps you can take to prevent otitis externa. You can wear ear plugs when swimming, tilt your head in both directions when getting out of the water to allow water to drain from your ears, and use a towel or tissue to dry your ear canals when you finish swimming, showering or bathing.

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