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Earache when swallowing: causes and treatment

by Alivia Nyhan
Published: Last Updated on

Earache is one of the most difficult to tolerate. Depending on the circumstance in which it occurs and other associated symptoms, it may suggest infection due to contact with water, a respiratory disease, muscle problems, or disorders in other areas, such as the pharynx.

If it occurs only when swallowing, it can be related to a sinonasal infection, pharyngitis, a problem in the middle ear, or even tumor pathology near these areas.

If you want to know the causes and treatment of earache when swallowing, in this FastlyHealarticle, you will learn all about earache when consuming: causes and treatment.

Table of Contents

Upper respiratory infection

Rhinosinusitis is inflammation of the nose and sinuses. It can occur acutely, usually linked to viral or bacterial infections, or chronic to poor nasal ventilation, fungal infections, or allergies.

When the air does not enter the nose correctly, and the mucosa is inflamed, the same happens in the ear. The nose and ear are communicated through the Eustachian tube. When there is inflammation in these areas, the average pressure compensation that the ear needs is not produced.

When these pressures are not adequately compensated for, it can lead to earache when swallowing. In addition, it can also cause other symptoms such as:

  • A sensation of having the ear plugged.
  • Noises like bubbling.
  • Otitis media (due to accumulation of mucus inside the ear).

There may also be a fever, a runny nose, and the pain may become permanent in the latter case.


The most important thing is to reduce inflammation of the nose and airway. It is beneficial for this:

  • Nasal washes: with physiological solution, pure water, and salt, or even better with seawater. It can be applied as drops, spray, or washed with a Neti jar or syringe several times a day.
  • Antiallergics: This type of drug can be used in people who suffer from seasonal allergies, knowing that it does not solve the problem but alleviates the symptoms.
  • Corticosteroids: like antiallergic drugs, they are helpful to reduce nasal inflammation, but they do not solve the original cause. They can be applied intranasally (with the benefit of passing minimally into the general circulation) or consumed orally (but they need a medical indication and follow-up).

You can also resort to home remedies such as:

  • Ginger tea, consumed as an infusion, is a potent airway anti-inflammatory, improves nasal ventilation, and reduces pain.
  • Inhalation of eucalyptus infusion steam: it is anti-inflammatory to the airway.

Pharynx problem

The pharynx and the ear share innervation. Some of the nerves that carry sensitivity from the ear also do so from the throat. This can cause an earache to appear in addition to a sore throat when swallowing. This type of discomfort is known as referred or reflex pain.

This can be caused by a throat problem, such as:

  • Viral inflammation.
  • Bacterial inflammation.
  • Laceration or contusion.
  • After tonsil surgery.


Knowing what the cause is already generating great relief, but to find out, it is necessary to go to a consultation with a professional who can check the ear since it can often be believed that in addition to pharyngitis, there is also a case of otitis.

Treatment of the pharyngeal problem will help to improve the pain in the ear. A common pain reliever can often help, but if the real problem is not treated, it can be complicated by more severe pharynx conditions.

Middle ear problems

The middle ear needs air to enter into, compensating for outside pressures. This occurs through the tube that connects the nose to the ears and opens when swallowing or yawning.

When there is no standard air entry due to some problem in the, fear, discomfort, and pain in the ears can be generated when swallowing, this happens in a variety of pathologies, some very common and others rare, such as:

  • Acute otitis media.
  • Secretory otitis (accumulation of fluid in the middle ear).
  • Chronic otitis media.
  • Middle ear tumor.
  • After radiotherapy in a nearby area.


Treatment will depend on the cause of the problem.

  • If there is pain, analgesics may be indicated.
  • If there is an infection, it can be treated with antibiotics if necessary and improved nasal ventilation through nasal washes.
  • If the problem is chronic, it is necessary to identify the cause: improve the air intake through the nose and identify possible issues that hinder the ventilation of the middle ear. Rule out the presence of malformations and tumors.
  • If the problem starts after radiation treatment, it is necessary to give the tissues time to deflate.

In any chronic or repetitive case, the placement of transtympanic tubes can be used, and these serve to enter air into the ear and ventilate temporarily. But in parallel, the cause of the problem must be solved.


If this ear pain when swallowing started after trauma, it is likely that the middle ear has been affected. This is possible if:

  • The Eustachian tube is injured, and the normal airway to the ear is blocked.
  • There is the accumulation of fluid (blood or cerebrospinal fluid in the middle ear).

Often, in addition to the earache when swallowing, there may be other discomforts such as:


An adequate diagnosis is necessary to establish an appropriate treatment and collaborate with early recovery. Restpain relievers, and sometimes surgical intervention is usually required.

This article is merely informative. At FastlyHeal .com, we do not have the power to prescribe medical treatments or make any diagnosis. We invite you to see a doctor if you present any condition or discomfort.

If you want to read more articles similar to Earache when swallowing: causes and treatment, we recommend that you enter our Ear, Nose, and Throat category.

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