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.
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.