Earache Diagnosis: Cold or Ear Infection?


Doctor Carrying Out Ear Exam On Female Patient

Whether as a child or an adult, most of us have had an earache. What you may not know, however, is that an earache can be symptomatic of two things: a cold or an ear infection. Typically an earache starts with a cold, but it can often turn into an ear infection in the middle ear.

So, how do you know when to seek medical care? Below are a couple of key differences that can help you decide when to seek treatment.

  • If your earache is caused from a cold, it may be accompanied by a low-grade fever, runny nose, sneezing or coughing and stuffiness.
  • An earache caused by an ear infection may have additional symptoms that include loss of appetite, impaired balance, drainage from the ear, difficulty hearing, fever and irritability.

Even if your symptoms aren’t severe, it’s a good idea to seek medical treatment so a doctor can properly diagnose you and provide a treatment plan. When a doctor is diagnosing the cause of your earache, he or she will use an instrument called an otoscope to look into the ear canal. If your eardrum is healthy, it will look pinkish gray in color and transluscent. However, if your ear is infected, it will be red, opaque and bulging out.

If a doctor determines your earache is caused by a cold, anti-inflammatory medication will help relieve the pain. Cold-induced earaches usually go away within a few days. However, for an ear infection, an antibiotic will usually be prescribed to kill the bacteria that is causing the infection.

If you’re suffering from an earache, visit Denton Regional Urgent Care. Our medical professionals can help you determine the cause of your earache and get you on the road to recovery in no time.


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