Sore throat and ear pain – possible conditions and what to do

It begins as a throbbing pulse and develops into a hurtful pain that radiates deep down your throat and to the inner ear. Although a sore throat alone can be unbearable, it is sometimes accompanied by an earache, and it can seriously affect your mood and daily routines. Are you dealing with a sore throat and ear pain? Learn what are the possible conditions and what to do to minimize the discomfort.

Possible conditions for sore throat and ear pain

Table of contents

  1. Primary cause
  2. Possible conditions
  3. Best approach to treatment
  4. DIY – reduce symptoms without medication
  5. Doctor appointment

The primary cause of a sore throat and earache

The combination of a sore throat and ear pain guarantees a visit to the doctor, whether the symptoms occur in a child or adult. Perhaps the painful sensations begin in the back of the throat, and it gets worse when swallowing. It is not uncommon for those affected to refuse to eat or drink.

Because the nerves in the back of the throat are located near the nerves from the ear, the throat pain often radiates to one or both ears. Moreover, the middle ear and throat are connected by a narrow tube. The Eustachian tube can block and swell when dealing with a sore throat, and it can increase the pressure in the ear.

When you experience a throbbing pulse deep down the throat, the cause is the inflammation of the larynx, pharynx, and tonsils. In most of the cases, the health problem appears because a microbial infection, and it can be cured with over-the-counter medications or natural home remedies.

Are you affected by a one-sided sore throat and ear pain? In this case, the explanation is simple. The infection affects just one side of your throat, and it radiates to one ear, leaving the other part pain-free. The discomfort is likely to occur for more than three days in a row, and several other symptoms could appear, as well. For the sore throat alone, you may read our dedicated guide to best sore throat medicine, but when you’re dealing with both, you should pay a visit to the doctor and learn what the best treatment for your condition is.

Possible conditions that involve sore throat and earache

Do not confuse the combination sore throat – ear pain with the common throat pain, although the discomfort might be similar. For the latter, consult our best home remedies approach to sore-throat pain.

1. Ear infection

Laryngologist checking ears for infection

Although 3 out of 4 babies develop ear infections, statistics show that adults get it, as well. Otitis externa (swimmer’s ear) and otitis media imply the inflammation and irritation due to retained water in the ear canal, minor trauma, or cerumen impaction. The ear wax can harden and build excessively, and the dark, warm, and moist area of the ear canal promotes the growth of bacteria. The symptoms of ear infection can include, besides earache and sore throat, fever, headache, fluid drainage from the ear, a feeling of fullness in the ear, irritability, lack of balance, and hearing loss.

2. Flu or cold

When you get a virus infection, especially around the seasonal changes and during winter, it affects your respiratory tract, throat, and ears. Runny nose, sneezing, and coughing weren’t enough; you also deal with sore throat and earache. First, learn how to tell whether it is cold or flu, then treat your medical condition with over-the-counter pills and plenty of warm liquids. When the neck and ear pain are severe and accompanied by fever, you should contact your general practitioner.

3. Strep throat

It is caused by group A Streptococcus bacteria and, if not treated properly, it can lead to complications such as rheumatic fever and kidney inflammation. The signs of strep throat are fever, headache, rash, body aches, painful swallowing, sore throat that radiates to one or both ears, and nausea or vomiting. When the lymph glands swell and become tender or the symptoms last longer than 2 days, you must call your doctor. Be careful! Streptococcal bacteria are highly contagious and could spread to those with whom you get in contact.

4. Tonsillitis

The inflammation of the tonsils appears in a viral or bacterial infection. The symptoms are similar to strep throat and include earache, sore throat, difficulty swallowing and breathing, and troubles sleeping. If bacteria are the cause of it, you need to take antibiotics to cure the sore throat and ear pain. But if viruses are to blame, you need to rest, get proper fluid intake, and gargle with salt-water.

5. Hay fever

Sneezing and coughing hay fever

Or the body’s allergic reaction to pollen, dust, and animal dander – shows as itching, red spots all over the body, and sore throat. Because the sinus pressure develops into earache, the sufferers mistake the allergy for a cold. Furthermore, signs like cough, fatigue, runny nose, and sinus pain could occur. Instead of asking for an antibiotics prescription, take over-the-counter antihistamines, decongestants, or corticosteroids to minimize the symptoms of hay fever.

6. Peritonsillar abscess

The condition appears when pus collects around the tonsils, as a complication of untreated tonsillitis. The pain is more severe than a regular sore throat and could be accompanied by fever, drooling, ear pain on the affected side, soft, muffled voice, fatigue, bad breath, and trouble talking. What is the best treatment? Your physician will perform a small incision or use a needle to drain the pus from the affected area, then they will recommend prescribed antibiotic medicines to clear the throat infection that causes ear pain and general discomfort.

7. Acute sinusitis

Active sinusitis

Allergies, cold, or bacterial infections affect the air-filled cavities located around the nostrils, triggering acute episodes of sinusitis. First, you might notice an unpleasant headache and runny nose. Then, the throat starts to sore, and it spreads through the Eustachian tube to the ear canal, causing pain here, as well. Fatigue and discharge from the ears and nose could appear. What should you do? Eliminate the discomfort with corticosteroids, decongestants, nasal sprays, and analgesics.

8. Canker sores

They form on or under the tongue, inside the cheeks, near the back of the throat, or inside the lips. You recognize the small sores by their round shape with red contour and yellow or white center. Even though they have a reduced size, canker sores can cause significant pain in the throat and to the ear. The symptoms go away within 2 weeks, and the soreness can be alleviated with OTC topical medication or home remedies.

9. Larynx cancer

Is the cause of persistent cough, sore throat, earache, and difficulty breathing. Depending on how advanced it is, larynx cancer can be treated with chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery. According to, drinking too much alcohol and using tobacco products increases the risk of laryngeal cancer.

10. Temporomandibular joint dysfunction

Leads to pain in the muscles and joint that controls the jaw movements. Although it usually goes away on its own, the symptoms of TMD can disrupt one’s routine. How to tell it is temporomandibular joint dysfunction? Several signs include locking of the joint, aching facial pain, soreness in and around the ear, tenderness and pain in the jaw, as well as difficulty chewing, opening, or closing the mouth.

11. Glossopharyngeal neuralgia and trigeminal neuralgia

Also known as tic douloureux – are rare nerve diseases that manifest as sudden and recurrent pain in the jaw, tongue, tonsils, ear canal, or the side of the face. The soreness occurs after swallowing and lasts for several seconds – up to a few minutes. In this case, your doctor will prescribe you medications like gabapentin (Neurontin), carbamazepine (Tegretol), or pregabalin (Lyrica).

12. Tooth abscess

The pocket of pus grows at the root’s tip of the tooth, causing a severe pain that radiates to the jawbone and ear. Sometimes, the lymph nodes around the throat and neck swell, and you need to take prescription antibiotics and anti-inflammatories. When the sore throat and ear pain are accompanied by pain while chewing, swelling in the cheek, and sensitivity to cold or hot temperatures, you must pay a visit to your local dentist.

13. Eagle syndrome

Sore throat caused by eagle syndrome

Is a rare health problem that gives pain in the neck, face, and to the ears caused by a calcified stylohyoid ligament or long styloid process. Statistics show the disease is more common in women than in men, with the symptoms ranging from dizziness, headaches, ringing in the ears, difficulty swallowing, and the sensation that something was stuck in the neck. The sore throat treatment is more complex, and it usually implies local anesthetics, steroids, anticonvulsants, antidepressants, and OTC anti-inflammatory tablets (ibuprofen, naproxen).

Other possible earache and sore throat causes are the consumption of too hot or cold foods, excessive use of alcohol and tobacco, uvula infection, and overuse of vocal cords. Discuss with your physician to know what the source of your problem is and get a treatment prescription for the sore throat and ear pain, if necessary.

The best treatment for an earache and painful throat

When the condition that affects the throat and nose transmits pain to the ear, you can try to banish the discomfort with over-the-counter analgesics, saline nasal rinses, and prescription pills with antibiotics. Here are the most common treatments for painful throat and earache:

  • Over-the-counter antihistamines – when the nasal lining swells because of an allergen (dust, pet dander, pollen), you must take antihistamines to combat sore throat, earache, sneezing, and nasal congestion. You do not need a prescription to acquire Alavert, Claritin, Allegra, Zyrtec, Clarinex, Benadryl, and other drugs that eliminate the primary cause of earache and painful throat. However, these medications can cause side effects such as dry mouth, drowsiness, constipation, agitation, and trouble urinating, among others.
  • OTC pain relievers for earache – you can control the ear pain associated with acute otitis externa or media with anti-inflammatory drugs that contain acetaminophen or ibuprofen. These drugs also work by reducing the sore throat as well as the pain and inflammation of various other parts of the body. If you are concerned about the appropriate dose, discuss with your doctor and learn how to use pain relievers for a sore throat and earache.
  • Saline nasal rinses and gargling for the painful throat – when dealing with a nasal allergy or upper respiratory infection, your physician will tell you the benefits of gargling and using saline nasal rinses. The pain and inflammation in the neck and ears caused by increased mucus production can be alleviated with saline solution. The excess mucous is cleared out, and the discomfort will gradually disappear. Salt has antimicrobial effects, extracts the moisture from the inflamed tonsils, and stops the spreading of bacteria from throat to ears and vice versa. Regularly gargle when dealing with throat pain and prevent the potential illness from aggravating.

How to reduce earache without medication

Alleviate throat and head aches

Having the symptoms of cold or allergy for several days in a row can bring down anyone. When the sore throat medicine doesn’t seem to work, and the earache is persistent, you can alleviate your condition with homemade remedies and several other ways that do not involve drugs. Here’s how to get rid of a sore throat naturally:

How often do you chew gum? The evidence shows that it can help “pop” the ears and diminish the pressure in the ear canal, especially if the cause of your earache is moving to higher elevation or traveling by plane.

Hold a hot cloth or heating pad for 15-30 minutes and get temporary pain relief. Sometimes, an ice pack numbs the soreness and reduces the inflammation that triggers an earache. Dampen a cloth or towel with cold water, fold it in a plastic bag, and freeze it for about 15 minutes. Then, place it on the painful area, and get quick relief from pain.

Do you know how to soothe a sore throat with neck exercises? Perhaps the earache appears because you are stressed, and your neck muscles are tensed. Start by slowly rotating your head and neck from left to right and from right to left. Move your shoulders upright, relax, and repeat. Look for other simple neck exercises or schedule a massage to relieve the ear pain and sore throat with the assistance of a professional.

The hair dryer works wonders. Enjoy a bath, then use the hairdryer on low heat to warm up your ear. Keep the device at a safe distance from your head and avoid burning your hair or ear. After approximately 5 minutes, the pain in the ear will go away, and you can turn off the hairdryer.

Mandatory visit to your doctor

Your sore throat and ear pain might not disappear with these options. The advices mentioned above cannot help to diagnose or treat the possible underlying condition. We, at MaximsNews, recommend you to call your doctor when the pain is too severe and doesn’t go away with the usual over-the-counter anti-inflammatory pills. Don’t you know what to do?

Your general practitioner will run several tests to determine the cause of a sore throat and ear pain, then prescribe you the best treatment for the health concern. If you have 2 or more of the symptoms mentioned here, schedule an appointment with your physician, and find how to get quick relief!