Do you have a cold?

Consult your doctor if you are unable to make a diagnosis from this chart.

see your doctor within 24 hours possible causes An infection of the outer-ear canal may be the cause of your earache. Alternatively, you may have a middle ear infection and a perforated eardrum.

action Your doctor may prescribe ear drops containing an antibiotic if you have an outer ear infection. If the infection is severe, or you have a middle ear infection, you may be given oral antibiotics. A perforated eardrum usually heals rapidly by itself.

possible cause Colds that are accompanied by a severely blocked-up nose frequently cause mild earache.

action If the pain is mild, take a painkiller such as paracetamol. If your earache gets worse, see your doctor within 24 hours, because you may have a middle ear infection.

see your doctor within 24 hours

Possible cause and action An acute viral or bacterial infection of the middle ear is possible. Your doctor may examine you and prescribe antibiotics to clear up the infection. Over-the-counter painkillers should help relieve the pain.

possible cause Wax blockage may be the cause of your earache.

action To remove ear wax yourself, soften it using over-the-counter ear drops or olive oil for several days. You should then be able to wash out the wax while in a warm shower. Do not insert cotton buds into the ear because this may make the blockage worse and may damage the eardrum. If you cannot remove the wax, consult your doctor, who will probably arrange for your ear to be syringed.

self-help Preventing ear problems caused by flying

A common problem in flying is barotrauma, damage to the eardrum, causing earache and/or muffled hearing, due to a pressure difference between the middle and outer ear. It occurs because air pressure in an aircraft changes during take-off and landing; if the eustachian tubes (which link the ears to the throat) are blocked, the pressures in the ear cannot equalize. To avoid barotrauma, try swallowing frequently, chewing gum, or sucking sweets during take-off and landing to keep the eustachian tubes open. If these measures do not work, blow through your nose while holding the nostrils closed. You should avoid flying if you have a cold.

l87> Runny or blocked nose

Most people have a blocked or runny nose at least once a year. The usual cause of these symptoms is irritation of the lining of the nose. This irritation can be caused by a viral infection, such as a cold, or it can result from an allergic reaction, such as hay fever (seasonal allergic rhinitis). Nosebleeds (below) may have a specific cause, such as injury or forceful nose blowing, but they may occur spontaneously. They can be serious in people over the age of 50.

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