Now that Halloween is just a week away, you have probably settled into your normal fall routine. Which means you’ve probably already dealt with your first cold of the season. There are likely to be more to come, so get used to the symptoms—and be prepared to go on the defensive when illness strikes.
How Colds & Flu Affect the Ears
Upper respiratory infections are no fun. Whether you’re suffering from a cold, flu or allergies, you’re probably going to experience plugged-up ears that result in pain and pressure.
Why does your head get stuffy when you’re sick?
Blame it on anatomy: the ears, nose and throat are all interconnected via the Eustachian tube, an organ that regulates the pressure in your ears, gets rid of excess fluids and circulates the flow of air in your ears.
What happens inside your eustachian tube?
The Eustachian tube won’t function properly when you’re dealing with a cold, flu, allergies or upper respiratory infection.
These conditions cause swelling and mucus secretions, both of which create blockages that prevent the Eustachian tube from working correctly. Inflammation causes fluid buildup, resulting in a plugged-up sensation and ear pressure.
Is everyone affected by illness in the same way?
Not everybody is affected equally. Some people never experience ear discomfort when sick, while others struggle with it constantly.
What’s the difference?
This is because the Eustachian tube is like a snowflake: no two are exactly alike. Subtle differences in shape and size play a big role.
Individuals with a narrow or horizontal organ are more prone to experiencing excessive fluid buildup; this is why children, whose bodies are still growing, experience so many more ear infections than adults.
Plus, some people just naturally have more mucus linings near the entrance to the Eustachian tube, increasing the chances that they’ll be dealing with inflammation when they become sick.
Ways to Relieve Ear Pressure
The good news is that most pain and pressure in the ears doesn’t last long. Once your upper respiratory infection has run its course, your symptoms should disappear.
However, this process can take as long as a week or more, and that’s a long time to put up with ear discomfort. To help speed up the process, the following tips should help reduce nose and throat congestion.
- Over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants
- Chewing gum
- Sucking on a throat lozenge or hard candy
- Taking a breath, then breathe gently with your mouth closed while holding your nostrils shut
If these tricks don’t help and your symptoms persist for more than a few days, or are accompanied by severe ear pain, fluid drainage or hearing loss, contact a Concord ear doctor to rule out an ear infection or other serious disorder.
Learn more about what affects your Hearing Health
- Eat Well for Health Hearing
- How Dental Health Affects Your Hearing
- Causes & Cures for a Ruptured Eardrum