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Health
Ear Infections
Jul 2014
Dr Anita Krishnan
Consultant ENT Surgeon, Apollo Hospitals, Bangalore

One can have ear infections at any age. Earache and feeling ill are the first symptoms. Antibiotics are given only in a few cases, whereas painkillers are prescribed as the main treatment. Usually the infection clears in a few days.
The two main types of ear infections are - those that occur in the outer ear canal (otitis externa) and those that occur in the tiny space behind the eardrum (middle ear).
Even though earache is a common symptom of ear infection, all earaches are not infections. A common cause of mild earache is a build-up of mucous in the middle ear after a cold, which usually clears in a few days. Sometimes, the pain that is felt in the ear is from other causes like jaw joint pain or tooth problems (referred otalgia).

Swimmers Ear (Otitis Externa)
This condition can crop up when bacteria nestle into an outer ear canal that is warm and moist. Being in the water a lot also tends to wash away the natural oily, waxy substance that normally lines and protects the ear canal. Bacteria can then get the upper hand and you get an infection. Water can be left in your ear after taking a shower, or poking around with a bobby pin or cotton-tipped swab can scratch the delicate skin in the ear canal and break down the barrier against bacteria, resulting in an outer ear canal infection also called otitis externa. Resist the urge to scratch, as that will make the problem worse. Don’t let the water sit in your ear. Shake the water out after a shower or swim. The best way to dry the ear is to roll the corner of a soft cotton handkerchief and use it to mop the canal.