Jon is leaving his health club when he notices that his left ear is itching. He scratches it and wishes he had a Q-tip, but then forgets about it.
Later at work, his ear is itching more, then starts to become sore. In the afternoon, it starts to hurt, and seems to even have some discharge.
What does Jon have?
- Swimmer’s ear
- Otitis media
- Allergic reaction
If you guessed 1. Swimmer’s ear, you are right!
Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the outer ear canal. It is caused by a moist environment, which allows bacteria to grow. The medical term for swimmer’s ear is “otitis externa”.
Symptoms include itching, redness, ear discharge, and pain of the ear canal.
Swimmer’s ear is caused by any situation which increases moisture in the ear, such as swimming. Use of ear buds or hearing aids has also been identified as causes of swimmer’s ear.
To help prevent swimmer’s ear, dry your ears thoroughly after swimming or bathing with a soft towel. Tip your head to the side to help water drain.
A home remedy for swimmer’s ear is to mix 1 part vinegar with 1 part rubbing alcohol to gently clean the ear. This should only be done if the eardrum is not punctured.
However swimmer’s ear progresses then it needs to be treated with antibiotic drops.
Otitis media is the term for a typical inner ear infection, which causes ear pain, but does not usually have discharge or itching like swimmer’s ear, which is also called otitis externa. Cellulitis is an infection of the skin layers, and can occur on the ear, but usually causes redness around the affected area, and does not usually have discharge. An allergic reaction would be unusual to affect just one ear.