What is "swimmer's ear" or acute external otitis?

External otitis or "swimmer's ear" is an infection of the skin covering the outer ear and ear canal. Acute external otitis is commonly a bacterial infection caused by streptococcus, staphylococcus, or pseudomonas types of bacteria. The swimmer's ear infection is usually caused by excessive water exposure. When water collects in the ear canal (frequently trapped by wax), the skin will become soggy and serve as an inviting culture media for bacteria. Cuts or abrasions in the lining of the ear canal (for example, from cotton swab injury) can also predispose to bacterial infection of the ear canal.

What are the symptoms of swimmer's ear?

The first symptom of infection is that the ear will feel full, and it may itch. Next, the ear canal will swell and ear drainage will follow. At this stage the ear will be very painful, especially with movement of the outside portion of the ear. The ear canal can swell shut, and the side of the face can become swollen. Finally, the glands of the neck may enlarge, making it difficult or painful to open the jaw. People with swimmer's ear may experience a decreased capacity for hearing in the affected ear.