Antibiotics for External Ear Infections (Otitis Externa)

November 7, 2020

The ear has three parts to it: outer, middle, and inner. Otitis externa is an infection of the outer ear, which includes the opening of the ear and the ear canal, all the way to the eardrum.


Signs and Symptoms of Otitis Externa

  • Itching
  • Redness
  • Discomfort made worse by pulling or pushing on the earlobe and other parts of the ear (which moves the ear canal)
  • Drainage
  • Pain, sometimes radiating to face, neck, or side of h
  • Feeling of fullness
  • Muffled hearing
  • Bumps in neck
  • Fever



  • Otitis externa is sometimes called “swimmers ear”, because it can be caused by dampness from swimming in water with high levels of bacteria.
  • Aggressive cleaning with fingernails or cotton buds can cause scratches, allowing bacteria to enter.
  • Earbuds, hearing aids, or other ear devices can abrade the ear.
  • Skin allergies or irritation from jewelry, hairspray, or hair dye can also contribute to irritation and inflammation.



Ear drops are the first-line treatment:

  • Over the counter ear drops can consist of acetic acid (vinegar) to acidify the ear canal, plus cortisone to heal inflammation. These usually are not strong enough to cure a bad otitis externa infection.
  • Prescription antibiotic ear drops: Cortisporin (neomycin-polymyxin B-hydrocortisone), Ciprodex (ciprofloxacin/hydrocortisone), Amoxicillin, Augmentin (amoxicillin/potassium clavulanate), Ciloxan (ciprofloxacin), Ocuflox, Floxin (ofloxacin)
  • Prescription antifungal ear drops: Lotrimin (clotrimazole) 1% or Locacorten (flumetasone pivalate) 02%/clioquinol 1% (these are only effective if the infection is cause by a fungus—which is quite rare)

Did you know? QuickMD can treat ear infections from the convenience of your home, and provide you with a prescription for antibiotic ear drops online.

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