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How long can ear infections last?

My young daughter picked up swimmer's ear from the pool at our gym. We're treating it right now with antibiotic eardrops, but progress is only coming very slowly. How long should we expect it to take for her to make a full recovery? When should we go back to the doctor?
Swimmer's ear is also known as otitis externa, an infection of the ear canal by the bacteria that like to live in swimming pools. The quick answer to your question is this. Patients with swimmers ear typically begin getting relief within 48 hours. However, some patients require up to 2 weeks of therapy with antibiotic eardrops. If after this 2 week period you daughter is still having symptoms, you should be seen by a physician right away for work up of treatment failure. Thus if it has been less than 2 weeks, continue with the drops, but be prepared to schedule another appointment with your daughter's pediatrician or ENT doc soon if she doesn't get better. If your daughter fails the topical eardrops, other treatments are available. Your physician may choose a different type of antibiotic, may add an oral antibiotic, and may choose to add a topical steroid for symptom relief. Also, some physicians find that cleaning the ear with hydrogen peroxide in the office may hasten recover. This is something that should not be tried at home. Keep in mind that most cases of otitis externa clear without issue, but some can progress to damaging infections. Therefore, it is pertinent to stay on top of the infection until it is cleared. Good luck.
This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or (in the United States) 911 immediately. Always seek the advice of your doctor before starting or changing treatment. Medical professionals who provide responses to health-related questions are intended third party beneficiaries with certain rights under Zocdoc’s Terms of Service.

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