Ear infections are generally classified by the part of the ear affected by the problem.
Otitis externa. This is a common infection of the outer ear which often affects swimmers. Hence the name 'swimmers' ear'. It is more prevalent in those with eczema, psoriasis or other ear infections. These cause inflammation of the skin and tiny breaks which let bacteria in. It is frequently itchy and irritating causing people to scratch their ears and poke things into them. This can make it much worse by damaging the skin which is made much more delicate by the infective process. If you have sore ears it is definitely worth visiting your GP before you go on holiday. Mild otitis externa often flares up when you go away. Mediterranean ear occurs when people go on holiday to hot places and spend time swimming. Hot sweaty ears are more likely to get infected. If you have chronic mild otitis externa some steroid drops may well get it under control. It may be that you have eczema or psoriasis in your ears. Make sure you visit your doctor if this is the case.
Otitis media. This is infection of the middle ear space. Blockage of the Eustachian tube can lead to the accumulation of fluid which can subsequently become infected. This can be very painful as it can cause the eardrum to bulge and eventually burst if treatment isn't undertaken. Oral antibiotics in the form of tablets or liquid are usually required to treat the problem. Otherwise it can cause deafness, sepsis, discharge and severe pain.
Labyrinthitis. This is infection of the inner ear usually caused by a virus. It tends to cause feelings of imbalance, nausea and vomiting. It may be associated with a cold or other upper respiratory tract infection. Treatment is often with medication such as Stemetil.
You should always visit your GP if you think you may have an ear infection.