What are the symptoms of ear infection (otitis externa)?

Otitis externa is a condition that causes redness and swelling (inflammation) in the external ear canal. This part of your ear connects the outer ear to the eardrum. This form of ear infection in children is common.

The main sign and symptom of otitis externa is ear pain. It can be unbearable and may even worsen when the outer part of the ear is being tugged on or pressed on. You may also notice your child wincing in pain when chewing on food. Ear infection in children may also start off as itchiness in the ear. If your child complains of an uncomfortable feeling in the ear, it could also be a sign of an ear infection.

Here are the symptoms to look out for.

  • Ear pain
  • Ear itch
  • Redness and/or swelling
  • Tender and enlarged lymph nodes around the ear
  • Pus or discharge from the ear
  • Blocked ear sensation

Causes of Otitis Externa

Otitis externa is a form of ear infection that causes inflammation in one’s outer ear. It is also referred to as “swimmer’s ears” as prolonged or repeated exposure to water can make one’s ear canal more prone to inflammation and infection. This form of ear infection in children is very common if your child spends a lot of his or her time in the water.

Most cases of otitis externa are the result of a bacterial infection (as moisture is an ideal environment for bacteria to grow), others can be caused by irritation, fungal infections or allergies. This ear infection in children can also be due to dry skin, eczema, scratching of the ear canal, inappropriate ear cleaning, and other actions that can cause injuries in the ear canal

Ear infection in children can also occur commonly due to their narrow ear canal.

How do I treat outer ear infection?

An outer ear infection can sometimes get better without treatment, but it may take up to a few weeks. With ear infection in children, it is advised that you bring your child to receive treatment as soon as possible because it can also cause pain and discomfort that may be unbearable for children.

An outer ear infection can be easily treated with antibiotics, most of them prescribed in the form of topical medicines. You may also be given ear drops containing topical steroids to help relieve ear pain and swelling, and in other cases, oral pain medicines to help with pain relief. Most ear drops will need to be administered at home, two to three times a day, for up to two weeks. At the clinic, the doctor may also insert an ear wick into your ears to help push the topical antibiotics into the deeper part of your ear canal.

In some cases where your ear canal is blocked or dirty, aural toilet may be required; the doctor will clean your ears by manual removal or by suction clearance under microscopic guidance.

Intravenous antibiotics may be necessary to treat very severe form of outer ear infection in patients with diabetes mellitus. This is also known as malignant otitis externa and antibiotics have to be delivered into a vein via injection or through a catheter.

How do I prevent outer ear infection?

A variety of risk factors, such as digging the ears or excessive moisture, can result in an outer ear infection.

Cleaning earwax with cotton buds or any other tools is unnecessary because it can damage the sensitive skin within your ear canal. Our ears have self-cleaning abilities and our earwax also has antibacterial properties, which help in the prevention of ear infections.

Those who swim frequently should take precautionary measures to keep their ears dry after swimming. Simply tilting your head and gently pulling your ear in different directions will help drain any moisture. You can also gently remove water from your ears with a cotton bud. Otherwise, you can keep water out of your ear canal by wearing earplugs or covering your ears with a swimming cap.

Even during showers and baths, avoid allowing water, soap, or shampoo to enter your ears.

When do I need to see a doctor?

If you observe any persistent signs and symptoms of ear infection, especially with ear infection in children, it may be wise to seek medical attention as soon as possible. While adults are able to cope with pain and discomfort, children may not be able to bear with it.

Your ENT specialist will need your medical history, and will perform a physical examination to see the condition of your ears. During the examination of your ears, the doctor will be able to discern whether it is an outer ear infection or a middle ear infection and prescribe the right medication accordingly. If necessary, the ENT specialist may need to help you clean your ears to prevent your infection from worsening.

From minor ear infections to severe ear, nose and throat conditions, the team at Dr Jenica Yong’s will provide you with comprehensive care together with the use of evidence-based medicine in Singapore to treat any ENT conditions. Contact our clinic to schedule your medical appointment today.

Ear infection treatment and services

Ear infection in children can easily be treated with a few visits to the ENT clinic. Without treatment, ear infections can worsen, which could lead to additional pain, discomfort, and even cause the infection to spread. In more severe cases, ear infection can even lead to hearing loss.

As an ear infection can be caused by several issues, such as earwax buildup, respiratory infection, or a severe cold, it is important to visit the ENT clinic for a consultation and have the ENT specialist decide on the best treatment for you.

Here are the ENT treatments and services we provide.

  • Ear Wax Removal
  • Giddiness
  • Hearing Loss

Frequently Asked Questions

What can I expect from my first ENT specialist visit?

Your ENT doctor will first take a look at your medical history, find out more about the symptoms you’re experiencing and thereafter perform a thorough physical examination. This may include certain procedures such as flexible nasoendoscopy (a look into your nasal passages with a tiny camera). Your issues will be addressed and a suitable treatment plan will be devised for you.

How do I prepare my child for the first visit to the ENT clinic?

Always talk to your child to prepare them for their ENT visit. Find out more about the issues they’re experiencing so that you can assist them in helping the ENT doctor understand their condition. Do bring along a list of their old medications and health booklet.

What modes of payment do you accept?

We accept the following modes of payment:

  • Cash
  • NETS
  • PayNow/PayLah
  • All major credit cards

If you are insured and require more assistance, do approach our clinic staff.

Can I claim my medical bills through my Medisave account?

Yes. All Singaporeans and PR are able to use Medisave for certain consultations, procedures, and medications at our clinic. Please contact us to find out more about the eligible services.

I have insurance. Can I use that to claim for my medical bills?

Selected procedures are deductible if patients have purchased Integrated Shield plans. Please contact us to find out more.

The 6 Approved Integrated Shield Insurers are:

  • NTUC Income’s IncomeShield and Enhanced IncomeShield
  • American International Assurance International Co’s (AIA) HealthShield Gold
  • Great Eastern Life Assurance Co’s SupremeHealth and SupremeHealth Plus
  • Aviva Ltd’s MyShield
  • Prudential Assurance Co’s PRUShield
  • AXA Shield