It’s winter, which means it’s time to break out the heavy coats, scarves, mittens, boots, and earmuffs! We know from experience that going without these crucial items on days when the temperature drops below freezing can result in a variety of aches, pains, and illnesses, from the common cold to an intense earache. But the question we ask is: why do I get extreme ear pain in cold weather?
If you’ve ever been outside without something covering your ears on a particularly chilly day with freezing winds, you’re probably familiar with that sharp, deep, aching pain in your ears that comes with the territory. But you might not know what it is about cold weather that causes this extreme ear pain.
Can the Weather Really Affect Your Ears?
Absolutely. Cold, dry weather is abrasive to any part of your body, but especially to a part as sensitive and defenseless as your ears. The nerves within your ears run deeply beneath your skin, so any pain that gets in is going to travel just as deep, which is part of what makes this pain so emergent and unbearable in some cases. It also doesn’t help that you don’t want your ears to be too dry or too wet since fluid can cause ear infections while being too dried out will make them more sensitive to pain; be cautious of extreme ear pain in cold weather.
Why Do My Ears Hurt When It’s Cold Outside?
There are a few reasons why freezing weather can cause deep pain in our ears:
- There’s virtually no fat on our ears, so there’s no protection against the elements if we don’t cover them with earmuffs, a hat, or a scarf.
- This lack of protection makes it easy for abrasive winds to cause intense sensory nerve pain, which is what causes that deep ache and sharp pain we’re familiar with.
- If you spend too much time outside in cold weather, it can dry out your throat, which can lead to coughing and congestion. This can then cause an upper respiratory infection, which could travel to your ears and become a painful ear infection. This is a much more indirect way the cold can affect your ears, but it’s still a common occurrence.
Additionally, water within the ear canal can lead to inflammation and irritation, only adding to their sensitivity and risk for infection when subjected to cold weather for any length of time.
What Do You Do When Your Ear Hurts From Cold Weather?
First and foremost, you want to try to prevent this pain and lower your infection risk. You can do so by limiting the amount of time you spend outside in the cold, but we all know that isn’t always avoidable this time of year. Kids want to play in the snow, adults have to go to work, shovel, or shop, and everyone still has to go about their daily lives.
Instead, you can prevent ear pain by protecting those sensitive appendages with a hat, a scarf, or earmuffs. The more you barricade your ears against cold winds and frigid air, the less likely you are to experience that deep, sharp pain that drives people crazy! Not to mention, doing so will also help you avoid getting sick in other ways, which will simultaneously help reduce the chances for an infection to get to your ears.
After the Fact
If you either didn’t use the preventative measures or have found yourself in a situation where the pain was unavoidable, the best thing you can try to do is warm up quickly. If you’re able to get inside a heated space, do so. Your ears will be tender, but try to cover them with anything you can, including your hands, an article of clothing, etc. If you’re in a position to do so, take a hot bath or shower to rapidly warm them. It might feel like they’re burning a bit on the outside as they readjust to warmer temperatures, but the ache will relieve itself fairly quickly.
Protect Your Ears and Limit Time Outside!
The best thing you can do during the coldest months of the year is to stay inside as much as you’re able to and fortify yourself when you have to brave the elements. Don’t skimp on warm accessories for yourself or your loved ones, and pay attention to any signs your body gives you that it’s reaching its limit!
Do you or someone in your family need a family practitioner in the Beaumont area? Give us a call at 409-419-6884 or visit Beaumont Dermatology & Family Practice and take a look at some of the services we provide.