What activities should patients with otitis externa (OE) avoid?

Updated: Mar 09, 2020
  • Author: Ariel A Waitzman, MD, FRCSC; Chief Editor: Ravindhra G Elluru, MD, PhD  more...
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During treatment of OE and for 1-2 weeks after its resolution, advise the patient to keep the ear canal dry. During bathing or showering, advise the patient to place an earplug or cotton ball lightly coated with petroleum jelly in the ear canal to prevent water penetration.

Patients involved in aquatic activities may resume these activities once the infection has been eradicated, generally within 4-5 days. Aquatic athletes may return to the pool earlier than 4-5 days; generally, after 2-3 days of refraining from any water activity, they can return to their usual activities. However, the head must be kept dry until the infection has been eradicated.

The best way of keeping the ear dry, obviously, is to avoid aquatic activities altogether, but the more common practice is simply to limit such activities to those that do not expose the ear to the water (eg, kicking while using a foam floatation board to keep the head above water).

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