Otitis externa is otherwise known as swimmer’s ear. This is because it is found to affect swimmers. External otitis is a condition that occurs when the ear canal becomes irritated. The ear canal is the part of the ear that leads from the outer ear to the ear drum. External otitis can develop as a result of an infection, allergy, or skin problem. Otitis externa is different from otitis media (middle ear infections). When a person says that they have an ear infection, they usually mean that they have otitis media. There are risk factors that can increase your risk of developing an ear infection. They include;
- Excessive cleaning of the ear can cause injury or remove the wax which protects against water,bacteria and injury leading to infection
- Frequent swimming causes the water to remove the ear wax which serves as defence against infections
- Wearing devices that block the ear canals, such as hearing aids, headphones, or ear plugs, can increase the risk of external otitis (if worn frequently) by injuring the skin.
- Pain the outer ear when pressure is applied
- Itchiness of the ear
- Redness of the auricle(protruding visible part of the ear)
- Pus or fluid discharge from the ear
- Difficulty hearing
If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, you should see a doctor for proper ear examinations. he/she will visualize your ear using an otoscope and take note of redness and swelling. if you have recurring episodes of ear infection or a medication failure after diagnosis an ear swab can be taken to determine whether the infection is bacteria or fungal.
The ear is cleared of any pus or drainage which can be done by syringing before instilling drops. Warm ear drops at body temperature are instilled into the ear this is because instilling cold eardrops into the ear can cause dizziness. Eardrops are prescribed for use depending on the symptoms experienced by the individual. Analgesic eardrops e.g. ibuprofen,diclofenac helps to relieve pain while antibiotic and anti-inflammatory medications e.g. corticosteroids to reduce inflammation and itching.
To instil eardrops effectively, do the following:
- Gently remove any discharge, ear wax or debris from your outer ear and ear canal using a twist of cotton wool.
- Do not insert cotton wool buds into your ear.
- Warm the eardrops by holding the bottle in your hand for a few minutes before applying them. This will help bring the eardrops up to body temperature. This will prevent any dizziness caused by applying cold eardrops.
- To insert the eardrops, lie on your side with your affected ear facing up. The eardrops should fill your ear canal.
- Gently push and pull your ear to work the drops in and to get any trapped air out.
- Stay lying down for 3-5 minutes to ensure that the eardrops do not come out of your ear canal. If this is not possible, try gently plugging the ear for a few minutes using a piece of cotton wool covered in petroleum jelly (Vaseline) or moistened with the eardrops.
- Leave your ear canal open to dry.