Swimmer's ear is an inflammation, irritation, or infection of the outer ear and ear canal.
Alternative Names Ear infection - outer ear - acute; Otitis externa - acute
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Swimmer's ear is fairly common, especially among teenagers and young adults. Swimming in polluted water is one way to contract swimmer's ear. The condition also can be caused by scratching (in) the ear or by an object stuck in it. Trying to clean wax from the ear canal, especially with cotton swabs or small objects, can irritate or damage the skin.
Swimmer's ear is occasionally associated with middle ear infection or upper respiratory infections such as colds. Moisture in the ear makes the ear susceptible to infection from water-loving bacteria such as Pseudomonas. Other bacteria, and rarely, fungus, can also cause infection.
Ear pain -- may worsen when pulling the outer ear Itching of the ear or ear canal Drainage from the ear -- yellow, yellow-green, pus-like, or foul smelling
Signs and tests
When the doctor looks in the ear, it appears red and swollen, including the ear canal. The ear canal may appear eczema(湿疹)-like, with scaly shedding of skin. Touching or moving the outer ear increases the pain. The eardrum may be difficult for the doctor to see with an otoscope (耳镜) because of the swollen outer canal. Taking some of the ear's drainage (排泄物) and doing a culture (培养) on it may identify bacteria (细菌) or fungus (真菌).
The goal of treatment is to cure the infection. The ear canal should be cleaned of drainage to allow topical medications to work effectively.
Effective medications include ear drops containing antibiotics to fight infection, and corticosteroids (皮质类固醇) to reduce itching and inflammation. Ear drops should be used abundantly (four or five drops at a time) in order to penetrate the end of the ear canal. If the ear canal is very swollen, a wick may be applied in the ear to allow the drops to travel to the end of the canal.
Occasionally, pills may be used in addition to the topical medications. Analgesics (止痛剂) may be used if pain is severe. Putting something warm against the ears may reduce pain.
Protect ears from further damage. Do not scratch the ears or insert cotton swabs or other objects in the ears. Keep ears clean and dry, and do not let water enter the ears when showering, shampooing, or bathing.
Swimmer's ear responds well to treatment, but complications (并发症) may occur if it is not treated. Some individuals with underlying medical problems, such as diabetes, may be more likely to get complications such as malignant otitis externa (外耳炎).
Chronic otitis externa Malignant otitis externa Spread of infection to other areas of the body
Calling your health care provider
Call for an appointment with your doctor if you develop any symptoms of swimmer's ear. Call your doctor if the symptoms worsen or persist despite treatment, or if new symptoms appear, including pain and redness of the skull behind the ear or persistent fever.
Dry the ear thoroughly after exposure to moisture. Avoid swimming in polluted water. Use earplugs when swimming. Consider putting a few drops of a 1:1 mixture of alcohol and white vinegar in the ears after they get wet. The alcohol and acetic acid prevent bacterial growth.
（来源：howstuffworks.com 实习生朱一枫 英语点津 Annabel 编辑）