It’s one of those annoying things that often goes hand in hand with illnesses such as the ‘flu, sinus issues or a cold, and it can make you feel even worse than you already do. Ear pressure can be particularly irritating but it is something that can be eased. It usually goes away by itself once the illness is over but there are ways that you can relieve ear pressure.

Why Do Your Ears React When You Are Sick?

When you are ill with a feeling of a congested or sore head, it is likely that your ears feel stuffy, blocked or tender. This is due to the fact that our ears, nose and throat are all connected so they tend to all suffer together.  We have two Eustachian tubes situated at the back of the nose, which connect directly with the idle part of the ear, so any pressure related issues in the nose or sinuses can be transmitted to the ears. This can occur during congestion caused by a cold or ‘flu, but also due to a change in atmospheric pressure such as occurs when flying or scuba diving.

What Can You Do To Relieve Ear Pressure?

More often than not, your ear pressure will go once your illness does, whether that be on its own like a cold or with medication for an infection. You can reduce the stuffiness and pressure in your ears by treating the congestion and swelling in the ears nose or throat that is causing the issue. This can be done by:

  • Nasal decongestants. This can be in the form of a spray or tablets such as Sudafed. The spray is particularly effective during an acute cold or ‘flu, although they should not be used for more than 5-7 days continuously. Always be sure to follow instructions for any medication.
  • Clearing your sinus by inhaling steam either on its own or with the addition of menthol / eucalyptus drops is usually very helpful and will also make you feel better.
  • Saline (salt water) nasal rinses – either a spray such as Sterimar or a more thorough rinsing system such as NeilMed Sinurinse are effective at clearing out excessive mucus from the nose, thereby helping to clear the Eustachian Tubes
  • An antihistamine may also be useful particularly if you suffer with allergies

A few simple things to try that may solve the issue quickly, particularly if it feels like your ears have “popped” are:

  • Yawning
  • Swallowing / Gulping
  • Suck on a cough sweet
  • Hold your nostrils closed and close your mouth, then gently breath out.
  • Chewing gum

Signs To Look Out For

If the pressure you have been feeling in your ear remains once the illness has passed or you experience pain, leaking fluid or hearing loss then it Is best to be seen by your GP or an ENT specialist as you may have an ear infection or other ear related condition that could require a different line of treatment or medication.