Ear, Nose and Throat

While Virginia is one of the best states for changing seasons, for allergy suffers, the changing seasons aren’t so great. With the spring comes pollen that never seems to go away, mixed with the ragweed that stays all summer and into fall and winter months where everyone gets a cold, including you. Doesn’t it seem like sometimes your ear, nose and throat are working against you?

As part of your upper respiratory system, your ear, nose, and throat all share anatomy and their mucus membranes linings are similar. This means it’s easier for them to get similar infections: allergies, a virus, or other problems affecting one of them can end up affecting all three. Here are the five common problems associated with the ear, nose and throat:

Ear Infections

Infections affecting the middle ear can cause almost unbearable pain. The most common infection, called otitis media, happens when the mucosa, the lining of the upper respiratory tract that discharges mucus, swells up because of allergies, a respiratory infection or a cold and causes the Eustachian tube to get blocked. Adults have bigger Eustachian tubes and this is why they don’t get ear infections as often as children.


Ear infections are often treated easily with a round of antibiotics or prescription eardrops. If left untreated more serious complications could arise, such as permanent hearing loss and trouble with speech.

Ear Pressure & Pain

When you’re traveling in an airplane, you often feel pressure in your ears when the elevation changes. Don’t you feel so relieved when they finally pop? This function means your Eustachian tubes are opening and working properly. However, when your Eustachian tubes do not open like they should, you can feel terrible ear pressure and pain.

On an average day, your Eustachian tubes open around 100 times. But if allergies or foreign matter like dust cause the tube to malfunction, it’s a good idea to use a topical, over the counter nasal decongestant to decrease the swelling that causes the pressure and pain.


A number of different things can cause you to have a nosebleed: colds, dry air, allergies and even migraine headaches. Other, less common causes can be blood clotting disorders or blood thinning medicines.

A nosebleed can hit without warning and it’s good to be prepared on how to stop it. When a nosebleed occurs, have a seat and lean forward slightly. It’s a common reflex to want to lean back but it’s better to keep your head above your heart in order to slow the bleeding and keep the blood from running down your throat. Squeeze between the tip and bridge of your nose with your index finger and thumb and hold until the bleeding stops.

Post-Nasal Drip

You nose produces a quart (yes, a quart!) of mucus a day. It’s easy to notice an increase in mucus or the thickness of it – usually attributed to increased pollution, dust, an infection or an obstruction. Your body is trying to rid itself of something and it’s always a good idea to get rid of the excess phlegm instead of swallowing it and putting it back into your body. An over the counter medication, like Mucinex, can help your body get rid of the thicker mucus and you’ll start feeling better faster!


It can happen overnight. You fall asleep feeling fine and when you wake up it feels like you’re swallowing pieces of broken glass. Strep throat is one of the more serious ENT problems because of the complications that can arise, such as heart problems and the risk of it reoccurring.

Strep is caused by the bacteria, Streptococcus and is most common in children between the ages of five and fifteen. It is different from a common sore throat in that other symptoms include body aches, swollen tonsils, white patches on the throat glands and a fever. Strep is often treated with an antibiotic along with rest and pain medications, if needed.

Especially during the winter months, ear, nose and throat problems can plague us. Knowing a bit more about each problem that you’re having will help you treat your ENT problems in the correct way and will keep you healthier just in time for spring.

Dr. Wayne Shaia discusses hearing loss on
Virginia This Morning.


Dr. Rajanya Petersson talks about ear tubes on
Virginia This Morning.


Dr. Armstrong discusses sinus infections.