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  • Writer's pictureDr. Koralla Raja Meghanadh

Can Ear Infection Cause Runny Nose

Ear infections and runny noses are common conditions that often occur together. However, an ear infection cannot cause a runny nose. Instead, the underlying cause of a runny nose can lead to an ear infection.


Let's explore this relationship in more detail to clarify this common misconception.


Can Ear Infection Cause Runny Nose

Cause of a Runny Nose

There can be several causes for a rhinorrhea or runny nose

  1. Rhinitis (nose infection – can be a common cold)

  2. Sinusitis (sinus infection)

  3. Rhinosinusitis (infection in both nose and sinusitis; it can occur due to a powerful bacteria)

  4. Allergy


To know more about the causes of an ear infection, you can check out our article.


Relation between runny nose and ear infection

The same factors that cause a runny nose can also lead to an ear infection. These conditions can result in middle ear infections, known as Otitis Media.


While it's true that most ear infections are middle ear infections and often occur due to a nasal infection, it's important to note that an ear infection can never cause a runny nose.


However, due to their shared underlying causes, the likelihood of experiencing ear infections and runny noses at the same time is high.


Ear Infection - Otitis Media

Ear infections, medically referred to as otitis, can be triggered by viruses, bacteria, and fungi. They are broadly categorized based on location: outer, middle, and inner ear infections.


Among these, middle ear infections, also known as Otitis Media, are the most prevalent ear infections. Symptoms of an ear infection typically include ear pain, ear blockage, impaired hearing, and fluid discharge from the affected ear.


Otitis Media is typically a secondary infection, often resulting from other ear infections or other infections. The primary cause is often a nasal infection, which can be either a viral common cold or a bacterial infection. Another common cause is chronic sinusitis.


Check out our article to know more about how Otitis Media can occur.


Anatomy: Nose And Ear Connection

Eustachian Tube: Connection between Middle Ear and Nose

The Eustachian tube serves as a vital connection between the middle ear and the nose. This tube, also known as the auditory tube, extends from the middle ear to the back of the nose (nasopharynx). Its primary function is to equalize air pressure between the ear and the external environment.


When the air pressure in the middle ear becomes imbalanced, it can lead to discomfort, ear pain, and fluid buildup, ultimately resulting in Otitis Media (middle ear infection). Excess mucus in the nasopharynx can block the Eustachian tube, especially if the mucus is thick. This blockage disrupts airflow and creates negative pressure in the middle ear, contributing to ear issues.


On the other hand, thin mucus can directly enter the middle ear, potentially leading to ear infections. The Eustachian tube's role in maintaining air pressure balance is crucial, as imbalances can result in various ear problems, including Otitis Media.


Mucosa lining

The mucosa lining is continuous throughout various parts of the respiratory system, including the nasal cavities, eustachian tubes, throat, sinuses, voice box, and lungs. This interconnectedness allows infections to easily spread from one area to another.


For example, a viral infection that starts in the nose, causing a common cold, can progress to a throat infection and cough as the infection spreads to the throat and potentially the lungs. Similarly, an infection can spread to the mucosa lining of the eustachian tube, leading to blockage and, eventually, an ear infection.


Why Does My Ear Hurt And My Nose Is Runny?

When people experience both ear pain and a runny nose, it's often because the underlying causes of the runny nose can cause a secondary infection in the middle ear.


Excess mucus released in the nasal passages due to a runny nose can block the Eustachian tube or enter the middle ear. This blockage or fluid entry increases the likelihood of developing a middle ear infection, leading to ear pain and discomfort.



In summary, experiencing both a runny nose and an ear infection simultaneously is possible, but it's crucial to understand that the ear infection does not cause a runny nose. While a runny nose can raise the likelihood of developing an ear infection, the reverse is not true.

Please check out our article to learn whether a runny nose can cause an ear infection.

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