Having a stuffy, clogged up nose is one of the most annoying symptoms of a cold. But did you know that colds can also lead to blocked ears? A cold causes swelling of the sinuses and increased mucus production. This excess mucus can travel to the Eustachian tubes that connect your nose to your ears, leading to clogged ears. Unblocking ears congested from a cold can provide much-needed relief. Here are some simple yet effective ways to get rid of ear blockage caused by a cold.
Why Do Colds Cause Blocked Ears?
To understand how to unblock ears, you first need to understand why they get blocked in the first place. Here’s a quick look at the mechanics behind it:
The Role of the Eustachian Tubes
The Eustachian tube is a narrow channel that connects the middle ear to the back of the nose and throat. It helps:
- Drain fluid and mucus from the middle ear into the nose and throat.
- Equalize pressure between the outer and middle ear.
When you swallow, yawn or chew, the tube opens briefly to allow air into the middle ear. This balances the pressure.
How Colds Lead to Congestion
When you have a cold:
- Your nasal passage and throat gets inflamed and swollen.
- Your body produces more mucus to fight the cold virus.
This excess mucus and swelling can block the Eustachian tubes. The tubes can no longer drain the fluid or equalize pressure effectively. As a result, fluid builds up and you feel pressure, fullness and muffled hearing.
5 Simple Remedies to Unblock Ears After a Cold
You don’t always need medications to unblock ears after a cold. Try these natural home remedies first:
1. Use a Humidifier
Breathing in warm, humid air can help loosen up mucus and provide relief from stuffed ears. The moisture also helps reduce inflammation in the nasal cavities.
You can use a cool mist or warm mist humidifier. Place it near your bed when sleeping. This will keep your nasal passage hydrated at night.
Pro tip: Add a few drops of eucalyptus oil to the water tank. Its antimicrobial effects help treat cold symptoms.
2. Apply a Warm Compress
Applying something warm around the ear area can help open up the Eustachian tubes. The heat helps thin out the mucus and drainage.
You can use a:
- Warm towel
- Heating pad set on low
- Hot water bottle wrapped in a towel
Hold it over the affected ear for 5-10 minutes. Repeat 2-3 times a day.
3. Stay Hydrated
Drinking lots of fluids can thin out mucus secretions. This allows the Eustachian tubes to drain properly.
Aim for 8-10 glasses of water daily when you have a cold. Other fluids like herbal tea, broth and diluted fruit juices also count.
4. Try a Saline Spray
Using a saline nasal spray can help relieve stuffiness. The saltwater solution moisturizes the nasal passage and thins out mucus. This allows the Eustachian tubes to open up and drain.
Make sure to use a sterile, pre-made solution. You can find these over-the-counter at any drugstore. Use 2-3 times a day or as needed when feeling congested.
5. Take a Hot Shower
Inhaling steam is an easy way to clear nasal and ear congestion. The moist heat helps loosen thick mucus allowing it to drain.
Take a comfortably hot shower 2-3 times a day. Make sure the bathroom is steamy before getting in. Breathe in the steam slowly and deeply for 5-10 minutes.
You can also drape a towel over your head and breathe over a bowl of hot water. Add a few drops of menthol or eucalyptus oil to amplify the decongesting effects.
When to See a Doctor
Most ear blockages caused by a cold will clear up as the infection resolves. But if symptoms persist beyond a week or two, it’s time to see a doctor. You may need additional treatment for:
- Ear infection
- Chronic sinusitis
- Fluid buildup in the middle ear
See your doctor right away if you have:
- Fever over 101°F
- Severe pain in the ear
- Pus-like discharge from the ear
- Sudden hearing loss or ringing in the ears
These require prompt medical treatment.
Preventing Clogged Ears from Colds
You can’t avoid catching a cold altogether. But you can take some precautions to prevent blocked ears:
- Avoid smoke and pollutants: Tobacco smoke and air pollution can irritate the nasal passage and aggravate cold symptoms.
- Use a cold-mist humidifier: Keeping the air moist, especially in bedrooms, prevents dryness and congestion.
- Stay hydrated: Drinking adequate fluids keeps nasal secretions thin.
- Take vitamins: Vitamin C, zinc, and magnesium supplements can help boost immunity and fight colds faster.
- Manage allergies: Treating seasonal allergies helps minimize chronic inflammation of the nasal cavities and tubes.
- Use nasal saline spray: Rinsing the nasal passage regularly with saline solution can prevent mucus buildup.
- Quit smoking: Smoking causes swelling in the sinuses and nose, leading to blocked tubes.
Making these easy lifestyle changes can go a long way in preventing painful ear stuffiness from colds.
Frequently Asked Questions: Unblocking Ears After a Cold
1. Why do my ears feel clogged and muffled when I have a cold?
A cold causes inflammation and extra mucus production in the nose and throat. This excess mucus can travel into the Eustachian tubes connecting your nose to your ears. The buildup of mucus and swelling blocks the tubes, leading to clogged ears.
2. How long does it take for blocked ears from a cold to clear up?
For most people, ear congestion caused by a cold starts improving within 1-2 weeks. The blockage goes away completely once the cold runs its course. If it persists longer than 2 weeks, consult your doctor.
3. Are blocked ears a sign of an ear infection?
Not always. Many colds can cause temporary ear fullness without an infection. But if you also have severe ear pain, discharge from the ear or sudden hearing loss, it could signify an infection. See your doctor to diagnose and properly treat an ear infection.
4. What home remedies help relieve a clogged ear from a cold?
Some natural ways to unblock ears are using a humidifier, applying warm compresses, hydrating, using saline nasal spray and inhaling steam from a hot shower. Performing simple Eustachian tube exercises may also provide relief.
5. How can I prevent my ears from getting congested when I have a cold?
Avoid smoke and pollution, use a humidifier, stay hydrated, take immunity-boosting supplements, manage allergies and quit smoking. Rinsing your nose regularly with saline spray can also minimize mucus buildup that leads to clogged ears.