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.
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:
However, some medical conditions and environmental factors may also cause soreness.
Viral and bacterial infections
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.
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 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.
Sometimes, environmental factors may cause throat and ear pain, including:
- exposure to smoke
- dry air
- laundry detergent or cleaning products
Ear and throat pain on one side may indicate specific causes, such as:
- chronic tonsillitis
- gastroesophageal reflux disease
- TMJ disorders
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.
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
Depending on the cause, medical treatment may include:
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:
- swelling of the face or mouth
- fast, shallow breathing
- a fast heart rate
- clammy skin
- anxiety or confusion
- blue or white lips
- fainting or loss of consciousness
If someone has these symptoms:
- Check whether they are carrying an epinephrine pen. If they are, follow the instructions on the side of the pen to use it.
- Dial 911 or the number of the nearest emergency department.
- Lay the person down from a standing position. If they have vomited, turn them onto their side.
- 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.
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
How long does a sore throat and ears last?
Ear pain may last between
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.