What Causes an Earache?

An earache is quite a common complaint, especially in children. It may affect one or both ears, but the majority of the time it is in one ear. The pain it causes can be worrying, but it will often get better in a few days without treatment.

Earache is generally caused by an ear infection, but can also be caused by:

  • a hardened build-up of earwax or an object stuck inside the ear
  • changes in air pressure, such as when you take off or land in a plane (called aeroplane ear)
  • injury to the inside of the ear
  • referred pain from a throat infection
  • a problem with the joint of your jaw bone
  • dental issues such as an abscess
Earache relief

4 Ways To Help Relieve the Pain and Discomfort

With mild to moderate ear pain you may try to relieve some pain and inflammation at home. However, if the pain persists, or becomes severe please seek medical attention. When taking over-the-counter medications remember they may interact with prescription drugs and may also have side effects. Always check with a health care professional or pharmacist if you’re not sure.

1. Hold a cool or warm compress to the outside of your ear.
2. Paracetamol or ibuprofen may help relieve pain and inflammation.
3. Try to remain as upright as possible when resting or sleeping.
4. Keep hydrated by drinking plenty of fluid.
Serious EArache

When to Seek Medical Attention

You should seek immediate medical attention if your earache is the result of something that is stuck in your ear. Do not attempt to remove the foreign object yourself. Contact your nearest Ear Health clinic, GP, or call Healthline on 0800 611 116.

Please seek medical assistance if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • a high temperature (fever)
  • severe ear pain (especially if it stops suddenly as this is a sign the eardrum may have ruptured)
  • vomiting
  • a severe sore throat
  • swelling or pain around the ear
  • discharge from the ear
  • the earache doesn’t improve (or gets worse) within a couple of days

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