Otitis externa usually clears within a week or so. However, sometimes it persists.
What is otitis externa? Otitis externa is an inflammation of the ear canal which may be caused by infection, allergy or other causes. Symptoms include itch, ear discharge, temporary dulled hearing and pain.
There are different reasons why some people develop chronic otitis externa. These are generally the same as for people, who develop acute otitis externa. However, for many people with chronic otitis externa the underlying cause in unknown.
If you get water, shampoo, soap, hairspray, etc, in your ears it may cause irritation or itch. This may cause you to scratch or poke the ear. This can damage the skin in the ear canal and cause inflammation. Inflamed skin can quickly become infected. A vicious circle may then develop. The inflammation and infection cause more itch, you then scratch which makes things worse, etc. So, despite treatment, the infection may continue if you continue to poke or scratch your ear.
Dos and Don’ts
- Try not to scratch or poke the ear canal with fingers, cotton wool buds, towels, etc.
- Do not clean the ear canal with cotton buds. They may scratch and irritate, and push wax or dirt further into the ear. The ear cleans itself, and bits of wax will fall out now and then.
- Try not to let soap or shampoo get into your ear canal. You can do this when you have a shower by placing a piece of cotton wool coated in soft white paraffin into the outer ear.
- Do not use corners of towels or cotton buds to dry any water that does get in the ear canal. This will push things further in. Let the ear dry naturally.
- When you swim try to keep your ears dry. You can do this by wearing a tightly fitting cap that covers the ears. Some swimmers use silicone rubber earplugs, but only use them if they do not irritate the skin in your ear canal.
Registered osteopath Jo Sunner writes his first regular column. He runs osteopathic clinics at the Hereward Medical Centre in Exeter Street, Bourne, and Fitzwilliam Hospital in Peterborough.
To find out more about what Mr Sunner can offer you visit www.osteopathclinic.com or call the Hereward Medical Centre on 01778 426000.