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"How do I know if I have an ear infection?"
I'm 26, otherwise healthy, but work in a stuffy office. Two weeks ago I was on vacation and woke up the first morning with a sore throat, barely able to swallow. It turned into an earache on the left that persisted for a few days, then completely disappeared once I was home. This week I've been fighting what feels like the beginning of a cold again, with a congested chest. This morning I have an earache again, but on the right. Could these two instances be related/the same sickness?
It sounds like you have a bad viral upper respiratory tract infection, and I do think that these two instances are related. The sore throat was probably the first sign of the infection. The infection causes inflammation of your upper airways including your nose and throat. This causes swelling and drainage that drips down to the back of the throat making it sore. The ears have a tube that connects with the nose called the eustachian tube. This tube helps regulate the pressure inside the ears. The swelling in the nose cuts off this tube causing fluid to build up inside the ear behind the ear drum which causes pain. Sometimes that fluid becomes infected causing an ear infection which can be even more painful. As the upper respiratory tract infection clears, the tubes will open up and your ears will begin to feel a lot better. I suggest that you schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. He or she can take a more detailed history of your symptoms and perform a thorough physical exam. If there is any evidence of an ear infection, then you doctor will likely prescribe an antibiotic. Most likely, you will be feeling better very soon. Good luck.
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