CareNow® - February 13, 2023

An earache or a sore throat alone can leave you feeling miserable, but when you’ve got a combination of the two, you’ll want to see a medical provider as soon as possible so you can start feeling better again soon.

It’s possible that experiencing an earache alongside a sore throat indicates strep throat, which is highly contagious and can lead to complications when not taken seriously.

Fortunately, a provider can look at your ears and throat, review your symptoms, and take a strep throat test to determine what’s causing your pain.

If you’re suffering from an earache accompanied by a sore throat, here’s what you need to know to determine what exactly is going on.

Potential causes of ear and throat pain

There are several possible causes of pain in the ear and throat. Some common causes include:

  • Ear infections, such as otitis media or swimmer's ear
  • Throat infections, such as strep throat or tonsillitis
  • Inflammation or irritation, such as from allergies or acid reflux
  • Injuries, such as from a blow to the head or neck
  • Earwax buildup
  • Sinusitis
  • Sore throat due to a cold or flu
  • Tonsil stones
  • Ear injury or damage
  • Other conditions such as Meniere's disease, temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ), or polyps

It’s important to consult a medical provider for a proper diagnosis and treatment. Fortunately, urgent care clinics are a great way to get seen immediately no matter what day or time — CareNow® urgent care clinics are open after hours and on the weekends.

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How to tell if you have an ear infection

More common in children than adults, ear infections can occur from viral or bacterial infections in the middle ear. As many as five out of six children will deal with an ear infection before they turn three.

In many cases, an ear infection happens alongside the flu, a cold, a sinus infection, or even something as minimal as allergies.

It’s possible to experience fluid in your ear as well as swelling and the feeling of pressure in your ear. Trouble hearing, a low-grade fever, and drawing of fluid from the ear are other symptoms that can occur with an ear infection.

How to know if you have a nose or throat infection

Other possible causes of ear pain include nose and throat infections. With a nose or throat infection, the adenoids (small pads of tissue that help to filter out and fight off bacteria and viruses that enter the body through the nose and mouth) get larger, eventually blocking the tubes within the ears, causing an earache.

Signs of a nose or throat infection include:

  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Coughing or sneezing
  • Sore throat or hoarseness
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Nasal congestion
  • Loss of sense of smell or taste
  • Pain or discomfort in the nose, throat, or ears
  • Swelling or redness in the nose or throat
  • Thick, discolored nasal discharge
  • Tenderness or pain in the face or jaw
  • Swollen lymph nodes in the neck

It's important to note that some of the above symptoms may also be caused by other conditions, such as allergies or a cold.

If you have any concerns or persistent symptoms, you should seek medical attention at urgent care or your primary care physician.

How to relieve ear pain instantly

Ear pain can be extremely uncomfortable, so it’s a good idea to know the best ways to relieve pain quickly. Here are a few things you can try to relieve ear pain right away:

Over-the-counter pain relievers

Medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help to reduce pain and inflammation.

Warm compresses

Applying a warm compress to the affected ear can help to relieve pain and reduce inflammation. You can use a warm washcloth or a heating pad set to a low setting.

Ear drops

Over-the-counter ear drops containing pain relievers and/or antibiotics can help to alleviate pain and fight off infections.

Steam inhalation

Inhaling steam can help to reduce congestion and relieve pain in the ears. You can do this by taking a hot shower or by sitting in a bathroom with the hot water running.

Avoiding pressure changes

If your ear pain is caused by changes in air pressure, such as during air travel, it can help to chew gum or suck on hard candy to help open the Eustachian tubes and equalize pressure.

Keep your head elevated while sleeping

When you sleep with your head elevated, it can help to reduce the pressure in your ears, which can help to relieve ear pain.

Please keep in mind that these are general recommendations and the best way to treat ear pain is to identify the underlying cause and get proper medical attention.

When to See a Doctor for an Earache and Sore Throat

There are many different things that can cause ear pain and a sore throat, so it’s always a good idea to get looked at by a medical provider if you’re experiencing both. This is especially important if you’ve been around someone who’s sick recently.

Once you begin a treatment plan, you will need to let your doctor know if you begin experiencing a high fever, stiff neck, frequent heartburn, dizziness, or blood or pus draining from your ear.

Your local CareNow® is a great option for seeking medical attention for an earache and sore throat. We have more than 175 locations throughout the country, each open after hours and on the weekends.

To make your visit as convenient as possible, we welcome walk-in patients and offer a Web Check-In® feature so you can wait from anywhere.

We have been recognized by the Urgent Care Association (UCA) as an Accredited Urgent Care Center, a distinction we have earned through our commitment to best serving our patients.

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