Waking up to a sore throat or ear pain is no fun, but experiencing both simultaneously? What a pain—literally! When you consider that the ears, nose and throat are connected, it’s no wonder a sore throat and ear pain often occur together.
Here, we explore ear pain and sore throat symptoms and causes and share remedies and treatments to help you get back in tip-top shape.
When you have a sore throat, it might feel dry and scratchy, and you could find it painful to swallow or cough. A sore throat is a common symptom of allergies, a cold or other upper respiratory infections.
Ear pain, on the other hand, is more likely in children than adults but can occur at any age. Ear pain might feel dull, sharp or like a burning sensation. Or, if you have a cold, your ear—or ears—might feel plugged.
You likely have a handful of questions. Can sore throats cause ear pain? Are my sore throat and ear pain related? And perhaps most pressing, what is the root of this discomfort? There are many possible causes, including the following:
Acid reflux is stomach acid that flows back into the esophagus—the tube connecting the mouth and stomach. When this backwash occurs repeatedly, it can cause gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). The most common symptom of acid reflux is heartburn—a burning sensation in the chest—but a sore throat is also common. From feeling like there’s a lump in the throat to inflamed vocal cords (laryngitis), there are several reasons you may have a sore throat when experiencing acid reflux.
But how are acid reflux, sore throat and ear pain related? The acid from GERD can affect the nasopharynx, which is the part of your throat that’s behind your nose. The nasopharynx is connected to the eustachian tubes of your ears, so irritation in one can lead to problems—and pain—in the other.
Can strep throat cause a sore throat and ear pain? Let’s address this in two parts. One of the most common symptoms of this generally mild yet very uncomfortable disease is a sore throat. It may hurt to swallow, feel dry or itchy, and your throat may look red with swollen tonsils dotted with white patches of pus.
While strep throat doesn’t cause ear pain, it can spur an ear infection, which might be painful. This happens when the bacteria travels from the throat into the middle ear.
Mononucleosis, or mono for short, is a virus that spreads through saliva and is sometimes misdiagnosed as strep throat because of similar symptoms like a sore throat and swollen tonsils and lymph nodes.
Unlike strep, where the tonsils tend to turn red with white patches or streaks, mono causes the tonsils to develop a white-yellow covering. Again, because the throat and ears have many connections, it’s not uncommon for ear pain, mononucleosis, sore throat and other symptoms to occur at the same time.
Luckily, there are many treatments to alleviate a sore throat and earache. While some are safe to try at home, others require a medical professional. Read on for how to treat ear pain and sore throat.
There are several sore throat and ear pain remedies to try at home before seeking professional help.
While most throat and ear pain goes away within a week without treatment, your doctor may consider the following sore throat and ear pain remedies if you’re experiencing severe discomfort or unusual symptoms:
Make an appointment to see a doctor immediately if a high fever or stiff neck accompanies your sore throat and ear pain. If you experience any of the following, head to the emergency room for immediate attention: difficulty breathing or swallowing, drooling or a high-pitched sound when breathing (also known as stridor).