You can get colds or the flu at any time of the year, but the viruses that cause these common respiratory illnesses tend to spike in the fall and winter months. Most people who suffer from cold and flu can expect coughing, congestion, sore throat or mild fever. But what does it mean if you experience a cold and ear pain simultaneously, or even a combination of flu and ear infection?
Ear discomfort might not be as common as other cold and flu symptoms, but it can be just as serious and even a precursor to more severe complications. Keep reading to learn how to recognize, treat and prevent ear-related symptoms related to a cold or the flu.
The common cold is a virus affecting the nose and throat. But the virus that causes your illness might not limit itself to your upper respiratory tract—you could end up with ear-related issues, from soreness to fluid in the ear from cold and more.
You might wonder how to unclog ears from congestion. Ear congestion typically resolves on its own after the virus has run its course. If it does not, or if it becomes painful, you might seek medical intervention in the form of:
Simple ear congestion can escalate into a middle ear infection, also known as otitis media. This happens when the virus that caused your cold migrates from your nose or throat into the ear through the eustachian tube. Middle ear infection symptoms can include:
Treating otitis media is important. If left untreated, middle ear infections can lead to serious complications, including hearing loss. Under direction from your healthcare provider, you might consider the following remedies:
What helps ear pain from sinus infection varies depending on the severity and type of infection. Some treatment options include:
Can a cold cause tinnitus? Tinnitus is characterized by ringing, hissing or buzzing in the ears. You might notice new or increased tinnitus after a particularly nasty cold. This might be caused by increased pressure in your ears that can accompany a cold or sinus infection. If you continue to experience tinnitus after a cold, contact your doctor.
Ear congestion during a cold can cause muffled or reduced hearing. If congestion leads to an ear infection, you might experience temporary hearing loss. Typically, hearing loss from cold will resolve as the virus clears your system. Treat hearing loss from cold with:
Labyrinthitis is inflammation of the inner ear and the nerves that connect it to the brain. A viral infection, including a cold, can trigger it. The condition can cause dizziness, nausea and hearing loss, which resolves after a few weeks. Rest, avoid sudden movements and ask your doctor about medications to manage nausea. If symptoms of labyrinthitis after a cold persist, consult with your healthcare provider.
Another common response to the inflammation that accompanies a cold is itchy ears. Use over-the-counter ear drops to relieve symptoms of itchy ears with a cold. Never insert anything in your ear.
When your ear is infected, fluid and pus can build up and cause the eardrum to rupture. This might lead to bleeding or drainage from the ear. Keep the ear dry and avoid putting any objects in your ear. If bleeding or drainage from the ear after a cold happens or is accompanied by changes in hearing, contact a medical provider immediately.
Congestion from a cold can block the Eustachian tubes, causing fluid to build up in the ear. Fluid in ear symptoms include a feeling of fullness, ringing or popping sounds, difficulty hearing or balance issues.
There are several home remedies to address pain or discomfort from fluid in the ears.
If your earache is the result of a sinus infection, try a nasal saline rinse to clear the sinuses. Consult with your doctor before trying a sinus rinse for ear pain. For best results:
General home remedies like rest or warm compresses can help, but in some cases, they fall short. Consider medications for a more targeted approach to fluid-in-ear treatment.
When treating fluid in the ear from cold or more severe complications like cold and ear pain or flu and ear infection, especially in children, consider the following:
Most cold and ear pain will resolve once the virus has cleared your system. If symptoms persist, be sure to consult with your doctor for the best course of treatment.