A sore throat and ear pain may be a symptom of an infection, allergy, or other medical condition. While some cases may resolve on their own, others might require medical attention.

Ear pain alongside a sore throat could indicate the possibility of conditions such as tonsillitis or mononucleosis, which people also call mono.

This article examines some of the common symptoms, causes, and treatment options for sore throat and ears. It also discusses when to speak with a doctor for sore throat and ears.

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The symptoms of sore throat and ears can include throat pain, difficulty swallowing, earache, and sometimes swelling or tenderness in the lymph nodes.

Symptoms of a sore throat may include:

  • the throat appearing swollen and red or discolored
  • the throat feeling scratchy or dry
  • voice becoming hoarse
  • tonsils that may have white spots or pus
  • lymph nodes in the neck becoming swollen

Ear pain symptoms may include:

  • pain and discomfort in one or both ears
  • a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ears
  • a reduced ability to hear
  • ringing in the ears, also known as tinnitus
  • fluid or pus drainage from the ears

The most common causes of sore throat and ears are viruses, infections, and allergies.

However, some medical conditions and environmental factors may also cause soreness.

Viral and bacterial infections

Viral infections, such as the common cold, the flu, or mono, often cause inflammation in the throat and ears, resulting in pain and discomfort.

Bacterial infections, such as Streptococcus, cause conditions such as strep throat, leading to severe throat pain that may also affect the ears.


Allergic reactions to pollen, pets, dust, or certain foods may trigger throat irritation and ear discomfort.

Sinus infections

Sinusitis is a condition that can lead to congestion and inflammation in the nasal passages, causing pressure in the face and pain in the throat and ears.

Acid reflux

Acid reflux occurs when some of the stomach’s acid contents flow into the esophagus.

This can cause heartburn and irritation of the throat and ears.


Tonsillitis may occur due to bacterial or viral infections and involves the inflammation of the tonsils, which are two glands on each side of the throat.

It can cause throat pain and, in some cases, ear pain.

Tooth infection or abscess

A dental abscess is a painful buildup of pus that forms inside the teeth, gums, or bone, often resulting from a bacterial infection.

It involves a painful throbbing around the ear, jawbone, and neck.

Temporomandibular joint disorders

Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders refer to a group of conditions affecting the temporomandibular joint, which connects the jawbone to the skull.

These disorders can result in pain and dysfunction in the jaw joint and surrounding muscles.

Environmental factors

Sometimes, environmental factors may cause throat and ear pain, including:

  • exposure to smoke
  • pollution
  • dry air
  • laundry detergent or cleaning products

Ear and throat pain on one side may indicate specific causes, such as:

  • otitis media, which is a middle ear infection
  • tonsil stones
  • a peritonsillar abscess, which is a painful, pus-filled collection of tissue that forms in the back of the throat near the tonsils

While most cases of sore throat or ear pain resolve within one week, symptoms that last for more than two weeks may indicate an underlying cause, such as:

  • allergies
  • chronic tonsillitis
  • gastroesophageal reflux disease
  • mononucleosis
  • TMJ disorders

In rare cases, cancer may be the cause. It is best to contact a doctor if a sore throat and ear pain persist.

A doctor will perform a physical exam to diagnose a sore throat and ears.

In some cases, it may be necessary to carry out additional tests to identify the underlying cause, including:

Some cases of sore throat and ears clear up without treatment. However, doctors may recommend some treatments to help relieve symptoms.

Home remedies

Some home remedies include:

  • getting plenty of rest
  • staying hydrated
  • a saltwater gargle
  • drinking warm fluids, such as tea
  • a humidifier to add moisture to the air and relieve dryness
  • over-the-counter antihistamines or decongestants
  • soothing lozenges

Medical treatment

Depending on the cause, medical treatment may include:

  • antibiotics for bacterial infections
  • prescription allergy medication
  • a tonsillectomy, which involves removing the tonsils, may be necessary in cases of chronic tonsillitis
  • acid reflux medications, such as proton pump inhibitors, to reduce stomach acid production

It is important to contact a doctor if the following symptoms appear:

  • difficulty swallowing
  • a high fever
  • severe ear pain or drainage from the ear
  • persistent hoarseness or voice changes
  • symptoms that worsen or persist for more than a week

If a person has additional symptoms, such as vomiting and difficulty breathing, they might be experiencing anaphylaxis, a severe allergic reaction that requires immediate medical attention.

Anaphylaxis: Symptoms and what to do

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that can be life threatening. The symptoms develop suddenly and include:

  • hives
  • swelling of the face or mouth
  • wheezing
  • fast, shallow breathing
  • a fast heart rate
  • clammy skin
  • anxiety or confusion
  • dizziness
  • vomiting
  • blue or white lips
  • fainting or loss of consciousness

If someone has these symptoms:

  1. Check whether they are carrying an epinephrine pen. If they are, follow the instructions on the side of the pen to use it.
  2. Dial 911 or the number of the nearest emergency department.
  3. Lay the person down from a standing position. If they have vomited, turn them onto their side.
  4. Stay with them until the emergency services arrive.

Some people may need more than one epinephrine injection. If the symptoms do not improve in 5–15 minutes, or they come back, use a second pen if the person has one.

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This section answers some frequently asked questions about sore throat and ears.

Is a sore throat and ear pain a symptom of COVID-19?

Sore throat and ears may be a symptom of COVID-19, along with other respiratory symptoms. If a person suspects they might have the disease, it is important to take a test and follow public health guidelines.

How long does a sore throat and ears last?

The duration of symptoms varies depending on the cause. Viral infections such as the flu may last up to 2 weeks, but most causes of sore throat resolve within one week.

Ear pain may last between 2 to 3 days. Pain lasting longer than this can indicate an ear infection, and it is best to visit a doctor to receive antibiotic treatment.

If symptoms persist beyond this time frame, consulting a doctor may be necessary.

Sore throat and ears can occur due to various factors, ranging from viral or bacterial infections to allergies and acid reflux.

While many cases are manageable with home remedies, persistent or severe symptoms require medical attention.

Early diagnosis and appropriate treatment can help alleviate discomfort and prevent complications.