Swimmer's ear is usually not a dangerous condition and often clears up within a few days after starting treatment. However, if untreated, it can become extremely and surprisingly painful. In rare cases, especially in diabetes patients or anyone with problems with their immune system, the infection may be more difficult to treat and can spread and damage underlying bones and cartilage, requiring hospitalization.
Your doctor may gently clean your ear with a cotton-tipped probe or a suction device to relieve irritation and pain. Also, antibiotic ear drops are necessary to treat this problem. But if there is too much swelling or drainage from the canal, drops may not go in. If so, your doctor will most likely put in a small wick, a skinny one inch-long piece of dehydrated sponge, that will go in past the blocked area. When drops are applied to the wick, they will be able to seep into the canal and pass the blockage. This will provide quick relief, usually within six to eight hours.
If you or your child has an earache that is accompanied (in some cases) by a stuffy or runny nose and a sore throat and fever, it is likely that the ear pain is due to an ear infection.
Your doctor will examine the eardrum with an instrument called an otoscope for signs of infection -- not an easy task if the patient is a fussy infant. The doctor may also check for blockage or filling of the middle ear using a pneumatic otoscope, which blows a little air at the eardrum. This air should cause the...