Our head and throat are comparable to a close-knit neighbourhood. The throat and the ears share the same kind of lining layers, composed of similar cells, and therefore, they can be infected by the same type of germs. It is possible, hence, for us to have a sore throat, followed shortly by an ear infection. If we are really unlucky, we may suffer from both at the same time!
While a sore throat may seem like a simple problem – just take some lozenges – ear infections are a different story. If left untreated, they can open up a series of possible complications, some of which are as follows:
- Rupture of the eardrum and/or infection of the mastoid bone (mastoiditis). The mastoid bone is located behind the ear, and its air spaces play a major role in voice resonance, acoustic insulation and dissipation among other functions. Both conditions can lead to hearing loss.
- Throat infection such as strep throat can cause the formation of pus or abscesses that can spread to other areas of the head and throat. Strep throat, if remain untreated, can also damage the heart, nerves, skin, and joints.
- Infections by certain bacteria can sometimes lead to rheumatic fever or post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis when left untreated. Post-streptococcal glomerulonephritis is a condition that can eventually cause kidney damage; fortunately its occurrence is quite rare.
While there is no certainty that ear infections would occur with each throat infection (in fact, the chances of more severe ear infections happening as a consequence of a throat infection are pretty rare), it is still an indicator that we should not take our sore throats lightly. Nipping the problem in the bud – or in the throat, in this case – may prevent us from having problems with our ears later on.
Therefore, consider seeing a doctor if we have a sore throat that persists over a period of time despite repeated over-the-counter treatments (lozenges, etc). We may need something stronger, such as antibiotics, especially if the pain is intense, persistent ulcers are present, and we experience other worrying symptoms such as fever and swollen lymph nodes (which can appear as small hard lumps around the neck and behind the ears).
MD Health. Available at www.md-health.com
WebMD. Available at www.webmd.com