• The ear is divided into three separate compartments: the inner, middle, and outer ear. Infection of the outer ear is called otitis externa or swimmer's ear.

  • Swimming isn't the only way to get an outer ear infection. You can also be infected if hairspray or other liquids get into the ear canal.

  • The main symptoms of an outer ear infection are severe pain, itching, or redness in the ear and tenderness in the earlobes.

  • A doctor will check to see if either pulling the earlobe gently or pushing the tragus (the small flap of ear just in front of the canal opening) causes pain. If there is pain, you can be pretty sure it's swimmer's ear and not otitis media. The rarer fungal swimmer's ear is generally less painful.

  • For most outer ear infections, your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic or antifungal eardrop with or without a steroid eardrop to reduce the swelling and inflammation.

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