Outer ear infection

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Updated: 4/11/2007 5:45 pm
Otitis Externa (oh-TYE-tis exx-TUR-nuh), otherwise known as swimmer's ear, is an infection of the outer ear. The lining in the outer ear becomes red and swollen, usually due to water entering the ear canal. It's difficult for water to drain out of the ear because the ear canal is horizontal and curved, and is often coated with wax. When the skin becomes damp, the bacteria and fungi that are normally on the skin can cause infection. If your child complains of pain in the ear and the surrounding skin, itching, or reduced hearing, it might be due to an outer ear infection. You can follow these preventive steps to reduce your child's chances of contracting an ear infection: feed infants in an upright position to prevent milk from flowing into the eustachian (you-STAY-she-un) tubes; teach your children to blow their noses gently; keep your children away from cigarette smoke, which is associated with ear infections; try to separate your child from children with colds; and keep your child's ears clean and dry. If your child is too young to tell you about an irritation, look for symptoms including fever, nasal discharge, tugging at the ear, irritability, loss of appetite, and crying while lying down. While your child's ear is healing, be sure to keep the ear canal clean and dry. A doctor can prescribe an antibiotic cream to apply to the ear daily. The outer ear can be cleaned with a cotton swab or damp wash cloth, but never insert anything inside the children's ear. The ear canal cleans itself naturally, and your attempt to clean your child's ears may actually heighten the risk of infection or damage the eardrum. Consult a doctor in your area for more information about outer ear infections.
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