If you spend a lot of time in the pool during the summer months, you may have encountered otitis externa or swimmer's ear, a painful infection of the outer ear canal. More common in children than adults, otitis externa is a bacterial or fungal infection, easily contracted but easily treated if caught early. As with any ear infection, prompt medical treatment is necessary to avoid complications. Many cases of swimmers ear are cureable with over-the-counter medication, but a doctor consultation is always advisable.
The most frequent cause of swimmer's ear is water trapped in the outer ear canal, typically from repeated submersion into a pool or lake. Small amounts of water stay in the ear canal, which creates a warm, damp environment for bacteria or fungi to fester. Putting cotton swabs, fingers, or other small items into your ear can also cause otitis externa, as this can damage the inner skin of the ear canal. Small abrasions coupled with the warm environment of the ear can lead to the rapid growth of infectious organisms.
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