Inflammation of the outer ear characterized by an itchy irritation and watery discharge. It commonly affects swimmers and surfers who neglect to dry the outer ear canal adequately after long periods in contact with water. Ear plugs may exacerbate the condition. Water trapped in the ear canal breaks down the lining of the canal, providing an opportunity for infection with bacteria or fungi. Initial treatment includes gentle cleaning of the canal. Ear drops containing acetic acid are often used for mild cases, over-zealous use of ear cotton buds may abrade the canal and perpetuate the problem. For severe cases, solutions containing antibiotics with or without hydrocortisone may be used. Cases which are resistant to simple treatments should be referred to an ear specialist. Otitis externa need not interfere with physical activity except in the acute infective stage, as long as appropriate precautions are taken (e.g. application of alcohol drops to help dry the ear and restore the correct pH).
Subjects: Sports and Exercise Medicine.