Ear problems due to a cold

If you have a cold, you usually have a virus. You can’t always avoid it, and it usually takes about a week for it to go away. It can cause all kinds of unpleasant complaints, including ear problems. The ear may become clogged, itchy or painful. Small children are especially susceptible to a middle ear infection when they have a cold. They easily contract a bacterial ear infection. What should you pay attention to during a cold and what can you do about ear complaints?


During a cold, the respiratory tract is usually infected with a virus. It is a fairly harmless condition that should go away on its own. You often suffer from a stuffy nose, coughing, sore throat, earache, watery eyes, headache, fever or high temperature, painful neck and loss of smell and taste. You usually feel better again after a week. Sometimes your ears can become closed, causing you to hear less well. This can ultimately lead to unpleasant complaints such as earache, tinnitus or hearing loss.


Every year there are many types of viruses that can give you a cold. If you are very tired or you don’t eat healthy, you may be more prone to getting sick. The virus then has more opportunity to strike. The virus is contagious and is spread by direct contact or through small droplets in the air that you cannot see. These are spread by people sneezing and coughing. That is why it is important to do this with a hand in front of your mouth or nose. When you have a cold, your resistance is weakened, allowing other viruses and bacteria to strike. There is then a chance that you will get a second infection, which is often more serious than the first. This is how you can get an ear infection or the flu.

Ear complaints

Due to a cold, the ear can become clogged or an infection can occur. The middle ear usually becomes inflamed and that can be very painful. Children are more susceptible to ear problems because their Eustachian tubes are smaller than adults. If your child has a cold, let him or her drink plenty of fluids and use nasal drops to prevent swelling of the nasal mucosa. Ear drops are usually of no use because they cannot reach the middle ear. However, ear drops can be useful to prevent blockage. General complaints are: pain, hearing loss (temporary), itching and tinnitus.

Ear plugs

The ear cleans itself by producing earwax. If there is more production because the ear is irritated by a cold, a blockage can occur: a plug in the ear canal. You can soften the plug by adding some oil for a few days. Only do this if you are sure that the eardrum is intact, otherwise the oil will end up in the middle ear. If you are unable to dissolve the clot, take it to your doctor. The ear will probably need to be syringed out.

Swimming and ear complaints

What often happens is that children contract an ear infection in a subtropical swimming pool. Bacteria like a warm, moist environment and can multiply considerably here. The chlorine in the water can irritate the mucous membranes in the mouth, nose and throat, causing ear infections via the Eustachian tube. Children with tubes in particular should be careful when swimming because pain can occur due to the water running into the ear. Special earplugs are available that prevent water from flowing into the ear, but still allow sound to pass through.

What can you do with ear complaints?

If it is very painful, you can use the painkiller paracetamol. It also helps against other annoying cold complaints such as headaches and muscle pain. You can also clean the ear by washing the auricle with water. Do not use soap as this can promote the formation of clots. Continue to rest so that you can recover from your cold. If you still have ear problems after two weeks, go to your doctor. In the event of a blockage, never try to remove the plug yourself with a cotton swab or other object. This can damage the eardrum as well as the skin on the inside of the ear.

To the doctor

If you have severe ear pain or ear pain that worsens quickly, accompanied by itching or fever, see your doctor sooner. If you suffer from a runny ear that lasts longer than 14 days, it is also better to see your doctor. Even if you suffer from regular ear complaints, you should go to the doctor to have it looked at. A neglected or recurring middle ear infection can be dangerous and can lead to deafness or meningitis.


You have to be extra careful with small children if they have a cold. They cannot always indicate exactly what is going on, while they are more susceptible to ear complaints. If a child under four months old has a temperature of 38 degrees or higher for more than one day, consult your doctor. Use special saline solutions for children to keep the nose open. If a child reports pain in the ear, it is usually due to a middle ear infection. Therefore, always go to the doctor if your child has an earache.


If an adult is very short of breath or has to cough up a lot of mucus, it is better to visit a doctor. Also in case of a body temperature higher than 38 degrees that lasts longer than five days. In case of pain in the upper jaw, toothache or pain when bending over, there may be an inflammation. Keep an eye on it, don’t walk around with it for too long and ask your doctor for advice. When an adult suffers from earache, it is usually due to an inflammation of the outer ear canal. This is the part of the ear canal, in front of the eardrum.


From the age of two, you can treat a middle ear infection with paracetamol and a nasal spray. Do not do this for more than a few days in a row. If it doesn’t go away after that, you should still go to the doctor. A nasal spray ensures that the Eustachian tube remains open. This tube provides the connection between the middle ear and the nasal cavity. If this tube becomes blocked, fluid can no longer be drained, causing the middle ear to fill up and the pressure in it to increase. If the ear infection is in the outer ear canal, it can be treated with ear drops. If there is a serious infection, it should be treated with antibiotics.

read more

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  • Earache: what you can do about it yourself