Outer Ear Infection

(Otitis externa)

Otitis externa.jpg

Acute otitis externa (ear canal infections) is common. The symptoms include:

  • itching

  • muffled hearing

  • ear discharge (may be bloody or smelly)

  • severe pain

  • fever

  • redness (cellulitis/perichondritis) of the ear itself.

Common causes are swimming or minor trauma to the skin of the ear canal (eg cotton buds). Treatment involves removal of infected debris in the ear canal (microsuction/aural toilet), keeping water out of the ear, and antibiotics. Usually antibiotic ear drops are most effective, but for resistant or severe cases, antibiotics may need to be given by mouth as well.

Occasionally people develop an infected spot (furuncle) at the entrance to the ear canal, which can be excruciatingly painful and may require lancing with a needle.

Infections of the outer ear (pinna cellulitis/perichondritis) can be serious and usually need treatment with antibiotics by mouth or intravenously.