Alternative Treatment For Otitis Externa
Antibiotic drops are almost always used in otitis externa. The drops are inserted directly into the ear, minimizing any systemic (whole-body) absorption of the medication. They typically work quickly and painlessly, although some children continue to have pain for several days after starting the drops.
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Dozens of antibiotic drops are available. Some are sold as single antibiotics, some as combinations, and some are mixed with steroids to help reduce (swelling in the canal. Some ear drops are sold over the counter, while others are available by prescription only.
An ear wick may be helpful to mop up the fluid in the canal and increase the delivery of antibiotic drops. Wicks are sold in many pharmacies and drugstores. They are made of foam or gauze and are placed in the ear, remaining there through an entire course of antibiotic drops. The drops travel down the wick, causing it to expand and bring the drops into contact with the infected skin.
For complicated otitis externa infections — such as those that involve surrounding tissues or are associated with fever — an oral antibiotic is often necessary. The downside to this is that oral antibiotics are absorbed systemically and can have consequences for other organs. One of the most common side effects of oral antibiotics is stomach upset.
There is a significant effort among doctors to avoid the use of oral antibiotics in order to minimize the growing problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Resistance is more likely to appear with oral antibiotics than with local (topical) antibiotics.
Because otitis externa can be quite uncomfortable, pain management is important. Numbing drops, such as benzocaine/ antipyrine (Auralgan), can ease the pain for two to four hours at a time. Oral medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Motrin or Advil) also work well to reduce pain.
If your child is in extreme pain, your doctor may suggest a stronger pain reliever such as codeine until the infection is more under control. This type of pain is highly unusual with otitis externa.
What are the possible complications?
Untreated otitis externa can spread to the external ear, and even to the tissues surrounding the ear. In very rare cases, namely among immunocompromised people, the infection can spread to the temporal bone located near the ear. This is called malignant or necrotizing otitis externa.