Outer ear infections

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Updated: 4/11/2007 2:46 pm
Inflammation of the outer ear canal is a common occurrence. The inflammation may cause severe pain in the ear which can be worsened by movements, such as chewing and yawning. Hearing is rarely affected in these cases. Occasionally, sections of the outer ear canal may become infected. This condition, sometimes know as 'swimmer's ear,' is caused by a bacterial or fungal infection. The infection may cause a boil or abscess, or the entire lining of the outer-ear canal may become inflamed. Even tiny scratches inside the ear made while trying to remove ear wax can become infected. Some people develop outer ear infections after swimming and must protect their ears from moisture even while bathing. Outer ear infections sometimes are very painful, the slightest movement of the head may cause pain in the ear. The skin of the ear canal may turn red, itch, and swell. A yellowish discharge may block the ear, affecting hearing. Most cases of outer ear inflammation resolve themselves very quickly. If the condition persists or grows worse for more than a day or two, you should be seen by a physician. Treatment may consist of antibiotic or antifungal drugs and pain relievers. Use a non-aspirin pain reliever for children, due to aspirin's association with Reye's (rize) Syndrome. You might try placing a warm, moist wash cloth over the ear to help relieve some of the discomfort. For more information about outer ear infections, contact a health care professional.

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