Swimmer's ear symptoms are usually mild at first, but they may get worse if your infection isn't treated or spreads. Doctors often classify swimmer's ear according to mild, moderate and advanced stages of progression.
Mild signs and symptoms
- Itching in your ear canal
- Slight redness inside your ear
- Mild discomfort that's made worse by pulling on your outer ear (pinna, or auricle) or pushing on the little "bump" (tragus) in front of your ear
- Some drainage of clear, odorless fluid
- More intense itching
- Increasing pain
- More extensive redness in your ear
- Excessive fluid drainage
- Discharge of pus
- Feeling of fullness inside your ear and partial blockage of your ear canal by swelling, fluid and debris
- Decreased or muffled hearing
- Severe pain that may radiate to your face, neck or side of your head
- Complete blockage of your ear canal
- Redness or swelling of your outer ear
- Swelling in the lymph nodes in your neck
When to see a doctor
Contact your doctor if
you're experiencing any signs or symptoms of swimmer's ear, even if they're mild.
Call your doctor immediately or visit the emergency room if you have:
July 09, 2013
- Goguen LA. External otitis: Pathogenesis, clinical features and diagnosis. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 3, 2013.
- Goguen LA. External otitis: Treatment. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 3, 2013.
- Lalwani AK. Current Diagnosis & Treatment in Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery. 3rd ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=39. Accessed May 3, 2013.
- Swimmer's ear: Otitis externa. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/swimming/rwi/illnesses/swimmers-ear.html. Accessed May 3, 2013.
- Papadakis MA, et al. Current Medical Diagnosis & Treatment 2013. 52nd ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2013. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=1. Accessed May 3, 2013.
- Kaushik V, et al. Interventions for acute otitis externa. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD004740.pub2/abstract. Accessed May 3, 2013.
- Swimmer's ear. American Academy of Otolaryngology ¾ Head and Neck Surgery. http://www.entnet.org/HealthInformation/swimmersEar.cfm. Accessed May 3, 2013.
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