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What Is the Treatment for an Outer Ear Boil?

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  • Written By: Madeleine A.
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 22 July 2014
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Treatment for an outer ear boil depends on whether an infection is present. Typically, when a boil is the result of a bacterial infection, antibiotics are often prescribed. Generally, oral antibiotics are recommended, although topical antibiotic ointment or a combination of both can be given. In addition to antibiotics, warm compresses can be used to help ease the pain and soothe inflammation.

A boil on the outer ear is usually painful and causes significant inflammation. For the pain, people can opt to take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drug or acetaminophen. For best results, however, anti-inflammatories usually work better because they treat pain as well as inflammation. Acetaminophen pain relievers only relieve mild to moderate pain, and do not manage inflammation. Both types of medications have side effects, and patients may want to discuss taking them with a medical professional.

It can be tempting for some individuals to squeeze an outer ear boil, however, this can be dangerous. It can not only cause additional pain and swelling, it can contribute to a secondary infection. Only a healthcare provider should attempt to lance a boil, and only under sterile conditions. This is sometimes done to facilitate the drainage of pus and speed the healing process. After the procedure, the wound is typically covered with antibiotic ointment and covered with a sterile dressing.

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If a medical professional decides that the boil is not related to an infection, it may be enough to keep the area clean and apply cold compresses four or more times a day. Although cold compresses are preferred, some people might choose warm ones because they can help ease irritation. Each time a compress is applied, a clean one needs to be used. Using the same one over and over can contribute to cross contamination.

During the acute phase of an external ear boil, the surrounding hair should be kept clean and the use of hair products should be avoided. In addition, the boil should not be touched unless the hands have been thoroughly washed. Although this swelling is not especially contagious, if it is caused by an infection, care should be taken if it is draining or bleeding.

In the rare occasion where the ear boil is accompanied by severe pain, fever, and body aches, a medical professional should be immediately notified. These symptoms can signal a serious infection and may need medical intervention. Since an outer ear boil typically does not affect the inner ear, hearing is usually not in danger. If left untreated, however, a secondary infection can develop, as can extensive scarring.

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Discuss this Article

anon352584
Post 4

I have one on the left side of my face. It is swelling and painful. Two days prior I pierced my own ears and may have infected the area near by. Warm wash cloth heps tremendously. Today is day three and my left ear canal feels pressure and my head feels hot. I'm going to the doctor tomorrow because the boil is directly on a blood tumor I have under the skin.

ddljohn
Post 3

After I noticed the boil in my ear, I put antiseptic cream on it and waited for a few days. But the boil got bigger and bigger. It was basically closing up my ear canal and I couldn't hear as well anymore.

I finally went to the doctor who put me on a strong antibiotic for an outer ear infection. It's only been a few days on the antibiotic, but the swelling and redness is going down.

literally45
Post 2

@donasmrs-- Unless you press very hard on the boil, it shouldn't be a problem. I would recommend using a warm washcloth rather than something like a heating pad. You don't need so much heat.

Also, how do you know that this is a boil from an infection? Have you seen a doctor? If it is an infection caused boil, you probably need antibiotics.

Sometimes oil and hair in the ear can cause cystic pimples that look like boils. These are still an infection but don't require antibiotics. If that's the case, you don't need to do much aside from keeping the area clean and avoiding touching it.

donasmrs
Post 1

I've been applying warm compresses on the boil in my ear. It makes it feel better and relieves the throbbing pain somewhat. But will the heat make the boil pop? I don't want it to pop because I'm scared that the virus or bacteria is going to spread.

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