Why Do We Get Earache When It's Cold Outside?

Natasha Hinde

The UK has braced storm after storm (hello Ciara and Dennis) and the bad weather is showing no sign of slowing down – expect frost, wintry showers and bitterly cold winds in the weeks ahead. Sob. 

In these chilly climates, you might notice your ears hurt when walking to the bus stop in the mornings or during a weekend stroll – a painful ache deep inside that can get worse the longer you’re outside. 

But why does this happen? And what can you do to prevent it?

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Dr Simran Deo, from online doctor Zava, says our ears are one of the most sensitive areas of our body due to the number of nerves in and around our ear canals. Cold temperatures and strong winds can irritate this canal, which can, in turn, cause pain. 

“Our ears aren’t covered by the layer of fat that covers the rest of our body,” she explains, “meaning that all these areas are exposed to the weather. Cold air can also reach the ear drum, which is also very sensitive.”

Everyone is different, so those who often experience earache in the cold may have a different makeup of nerves in their ears than others, she suggests.

The good news? If this is an issue you struggle with, it’s usually nothing to worry about and won’t cause any lasting damage. You can relieve symptoms by wearing a hat or earmuffs when you spend time outside, advises Dr Deo. 

Don’t try to put anything inside your ear, such as cotton buds, and try not to let water get inside, states the NHS. 

Our ears aren’t covered by the layer of fat that covers the rest of our bodyDr Simran Deo

If you have an ear infection – which is particularly common in children and can be caused by colds, flu and allergies – the pain is likely to be worse when you’re out and about. Again, it’s important to cover up.

Dr Deo adds that you may be able to relieve symptoms of an ear...

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