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What Is Red Ear Syndrome?

Red ear syndrome is where one or both ears become red and hot to the touch.
Coughing and sneezing are two common causes of red ear syndrome.
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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 11 August 2014
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Red ear syndrome is a condition in which one or both ears become extremely red and hot to the touch, with the appearance of the redness occurring within seconds. In some cases, pain accompanies the redness, with some sufferers reporting that the ears also become tender to the touch. A number of triggers that lead to an outbreak of red ear syndrome have been identified. Unfortunately, there is not a solitary course of treatment that can correct the problem.

Most of the triggers of red ear syndrome have to do with some sort of movement of the head. People have experienced outbreaks while chewing food, drinking, coughing, sneezing, or simply turning the neck rapidly in a single direction. There are cases in which sufferers would experience an outbreak of redness and discomfort after touching the earlobe.

Other physical conditions can sometimes trigger an episode of red ear syndrome. For example, migraine sufferers may find that the ears turn red and are somewhat tender to the touch during the course of the head pain. Various forms of joint dysfunction also seem to trigger the reaction in some people. There is even some evidence that prolonged periods of stress or anxiety can lead to the development of this health issue.

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It is important to note that red ear syndrome is very different from the rush of blood to the face and ears that occurs when an individual is embarrassed. In most of these cases, the redness fades once the episode of embarrassment is resolved. In contrast, red ear syndrome may linger for some time before the discoloration and tenderness begin to subside.

When it comes to red ear syndrome treatment, a common approach is to identify the underlying trigger and attempt to resolve that issue. For example, if the ears suddenly become red due to a migraine headache, taking medication to bring the head pain under control will often also cause the ear discoloration to fade. If some type of joint problem is the underlying cause, taking steps to correct the joint issue will minimize the frequency and severity of the outbreaks of the syndrome.

For many sufferers who experience episodes of red ear syndrome from simple actions like chewing or drinking, the focus is often not on treating the condition, but learning to manage it as much as possible. Some sufferers cope with the red ears by wearing their hair long enough to cover most of the ears. Others may choose to try using makeup to hide the redness, or develop the habit of wearing headgear that partially hides the ears. Others simply accept the condition and try to prevent the sudden outbreak from upsetting their daily routine, or causing them to curtail social activities.

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Discuss this Article

anon963933
Post 38

I have found my solution for the red ears! I am a man from Holland. I've had the red ears thing for six years or more now. My ears would become red hot and sometimes it got so bad it felt like I was sitting in a sauna. I have tried everything from cutting out certain food in my diet and going to the doctor asking about it. He sad it was normal and that I should live with it. He was wrong and I knew it!

Now I have finally found my solution what's causing it for me. I don't know if it would work for everybody. But at least try it! For years I've eaten a lot of fast food, ramen noodles and a lot of other unhealthy, salty foods! My body would build up a lot of these bad salts.

Now I've completely changed my diet eating very little salt and eating healthy bread, vegetables, fruit and supplements like fish oil omega 3/6 Multi-vitamins A-Z etc. Now two months later, my red ears are almost completely gone! I'm so happy about it!

anon946661
Post 37

My ear (usually just the one) also goes extremely hot and red. It is not painful or itchy, but it is uncomfortably hot.

I also have a problem with my nose going red and uncomfortably hot. Having researched rosacea, I don't think that rosacea is the cause.

This problem usually happens in the late afternoon or evening, and I can't identify any triggers. Sometimes it happens after drinking alcohol, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes it happens when I'm stressed, sometimes it happens when I'm completely relaxed.

I have IBS, social anxiety, and I take Wellbutrin for depression. I don't know if these things are possibly related?

anon938229
Post 36

I'm 37 years old and have had Red Ear Syndrome my whole life. This usually occurs during the early evening and night hours. It also happens more frequently in the winter than the summer. They usually turn bright red and hot to the touch when I am in a warm room with the heater on. I also get them when I am under a lot of stress. And on many different occasions, when I am eating out at a restaurant, they usually always turn red for no apparent reason.

I was diagnosed with high blood pressure when I was 25 years old but have had Red Ear Syndrome long before that. I just wish I knew a way to cure this bizarre condition.

anon932383
Post 35

My 13 year old son has been suffering from Red Ear Syndrome for about four years and it is becoming unbearable for him. It happens almost every day and seems to be triggered by heat, touch, exercise or stress. It affects both ears and recently seems to include redness of the sides of the face.

I took him to a rheumatologist, who does not believe it is Relapsing Polychondritis (RP), as the whole ear including the lobe is affected. But in the course of doing blood work we discovered his antinuclear antibody titer is very high at 1:2560.

There is a lot of autoimmune disease in my family. I myself suffer from Rheumatoid arthritis along with several other autoimmune disorders. Has anyone heard of an autoimmune connection other than RP? Perhaps Lupus? Thanks.

anon927357
Post 34

I just finished a McDonalds Praline McFlurry 30 minutes ago. I lay down to sleep and woke up with a hot, red right ear. It must be an allergy. I am on antibiotics for an upper respiratory bug and maybe sweet treats and meds don't mix. It's definitely an allergic reaction as I've been on the meds for days and this is the first time this has ever happened to me.

johnevo90
Post 33

I have had red eye syndrome since 2008 and also discovered that same year that I had Rosacea, My ears burn at the same time every evening, or if I touch the ear throughout the day it will trigger the burning, Sometimes when my rosacea flares up on my cheeks then the ears will follow suit, It really gets me down so I have been searching for some kind of cure and came across

The Demodex mites are microscopic bugs that live in the hair follicle and feed off the oils produced there, when they die (inside the hair follicle) and their decomposing bodies cause inflammation to the skin, which is what some skin experts believe causes rosacea, I wonder if there is a connection between the two.

anon356299
Post 32

I have been aware that I have had this problem for two years now. I never get red ear during summer months, only winter. Whenever I move from cool temperatures to warmer temperatures, my ear will get gnarly red and it makes my entire body hot. Ice packs help and make red ear go away, but I want to find something to cure it. I can't carry around ice packs wherever I go.

anon343509
Post 31

I am sitting here with one hot red throbbing ear right now! I have been wondering if it's because I have caught a chill on my ears this winter from not wearing a beanie or ear muffs. Sometimes it gets itchy but its only the one.

anon323332
Post 29

I get that. It's usually one ear at the time. I don't know why, but it lasts for a while, more than an hour and goes away. My ears don't hurt, but I do feel them get hot and under pressure from all the blood, even if usually I don't even notice it until I look in the mirror.

I somehow think it's related with my blood pressure but I don't know for sure.

Side note: My dog had vein or an artery in his ear burst after he had couple of days more physical activity than he usually gets. I believe he has red ear syndrome as well.

anon320744
Post 28

I get itchy, red, hot ears randomly, after I put earrings in, or if I'm thinking too hard. My ears break out really bad, but it's usually one at a time. At first they get really hot and red, then after a while they turn itchy and uncomfortable.

Knowing me, I scratch at it and forget to stop, which makes them break out in boils. This has only happened once and scared me senseless. I'm still occasionally getting red ear syndrome. I try my best to not mess with it.

anon310127
Post 27

I got red ears when I let my hair covers my ears. Although nobody can see it, it feels hot and uncomfortable.

anon301695
Post 26

I get it when driving with the sunshine on the left side of my face.

anon295576
Post 25

I have been experiencing this for years and my primary doctor didn't sound convinced I was actually having these problems. However, I did have to go in for an MRI for neck pain and discovered I had bi-lateral spinal stenosis in C4 and C5 discs, which puts pressure on the nerves in the neck. I did have a consult with a spinal surgeon and he actually said he's seen many cases where these problems cause the red ear syndrome.

anon292632
Post 24

This is so weird. I thought I was the only one. I have red ears right now. I'm 15 and my mom says it's been happening to me since I was a baby. I don't know what I can do to make it better. It happens at school and everywhere. I just put some cold water on them and that sometimes helps.

anon282068
Post 23

It's not hiding the redness that people are concerned about, it's the fact that your ears get so hot it feels like someone is holding a furnace next to it. And also, it usually happens randomly for no reason at all.

anon274245
Post 22

I have an allergy to a substance in hair dye called PPD and read that some food dyes can cause ears to get hot and turn red.. I had some frosting on a cookie with dye and my right ear got hot and turned bright red immediately after.

anon268569
Post 21

It's also been said that people with bi-polar get this for no reason. It happens to my son and it never hurts and isn't when he's angry, either.

anon262430
Post 20

I know stress has something to do with it, but it is not the only cause. I can be totally relaxed, by myself, without a care in the world, when suddenly it feels like someone is holding hot irons just an inch away from my ear(s). Then I automatically start thinking about it and it just gets worse and I turn blood-red. Very embarrassing when talking to someone and it happens in a matter of minutes and lasts hours. I can literally feel my heartbeat in them.

My PCP mentioned surgery, (last resort), but I found that the BP med Clonidine, at the right dose, will completely stop it. Unfortunately, you never know when it will happen, so I need to take it regularly. Whatever, it keeps my BP in check since I have social anxiety anyway. I found this by chance when I used the med to help with methadone withdrawals and noticed that even in stressful situations it doesn't happen anymore. Total social lifesaver.

anon259497
Post 19

My ears turn red and I feel very uncomfortable when I feel very hot on my ears. This happens especially after taking a hot shower at night or in the office and sometimes after 7 p.m. This started happening when I was a teenager. I don't have any stress. Please let me know if any one knows a permanent solution for this.

anon254323
Post 18

I have been experiencing unilateral left ear pain on and off for the past 20 years. I have seen both ENT and Rheumatology specialists and tried every medication, including prednisone and hydroxychloroquine. Nothing helps.

A typical flare up begins with excruciating pain involving only yhr lower and cartilaginous part of my ear, which is remarkably tender and very sensitive to touch. The pain gets worse with any movement of my ear and does not respond to any medication at all. It lasts for several hours and goes away when I wake up the following morning. I was in remission for three years. Recently the pain recurred with increased frequency and I am running out of all options. Anyone with suggestions?

anon235942
Post 17

I just wanted to share a similar experience as my ears turn red and becomes hot after taking a hot shower after 6 p.m. This experience has been consistent and started happening when I was a teenager. It may be also related to stress or anxiety as I feel stressed or anxious at the same time.

anon230145
Post 16

I'm so pleased to read these comments - I thought it was just me! I seem to get red ear syndrome in my right ear only - sometimes it develops into a migraine, sometimes it accompanies my period, so I wonder if it could be hormonal? I've also read that it can be a symptom of the menopause - I'm 42 too, maybe that's possible too?

anon195219
Post 15

My daughter gets this on both ears, but sometimes only one is affected. It began when she was very young, about three, and she still gets it at 12. It began when she would ingest red food dye 40, so of course we stopped that all together. Now it happens every now and then usually while she is eating. It does not hurt but she usually applies a cold wash cloth to them and it dissipates within an hour.

anon175819
Post 14

Oh, heavens. I started chewing bubble gum when alone in my office to thwart my urge to eat all the time, and have ended up with bright red, hot ears. Nice to know it is nothing serious, but caused by chewing!

anon175285
Post 13

Chiropractic work on my neck has helped immensely. Twice daily episodes have decreased to one every couple of months and the headaches I was having are also nearly gone.

Red Ear Syndrome is often caused by neck movements, and by having chiropractic work done to fix the alignmnt of the neck where it is hitting the nerves may fix the problem.

Enduronman
Post 12

I did an earlier post about this subject, but I'm registered now, so here goes: Try some zyrtec. Today is the first day I've taken it for my allergies, which are terrible. It is an antihistamine sold OTC and cheap too. It worked on this issue and was an unexpected effect too. First day without (red ear) in a very long time. Good luck!

anon167254
Post 10

I'm another one with red ear. Sometimes it's both ears but usually my right ear. I can feel it turning red and hot. I don't have pain with it and I don't know what triggers it. It just happens. It is irritating.

anon161595
Post 9

Whatever red ear is; whatever its causes, etiology (and none that are well worked out are known), it must correlate with vasodilation. This may be engendered by histamine. In 2010, this line of thinking leads one to consideration of the vexatious area of inflammatory (probably neuroinflammatory) mechanisms.

As enhanced circulation, vasodilation is responsible for the redness. And this can sometimes be a painful condition.

@TX: Apply cold water to the ear, one or a few times. Water in its liquid state, as applied to the ear, requires energy (heat) on evaporation. this is exactly what happens in evaporation: the water draws heat from the ear. Cold water also effects vasoconstriction.

The possible relationship with neuroinflammation is provocative.

anon150279
Post 8

You all may want to look up a condition called Relapsing Polychondritis. Red hot ears are one of the primary symptoms, although the ear lobes never turn red. It is a very rare condition, and most of what you read on the internet will scare you - only because there has not been much research done because it is a rare condition.

There is a yahoo group devoted to the approximately 600 people in the US and abroad who have the condition or are related to someone with it. For those who have other autoimmune conditions especially, it is worth looking up. It is very possible that you have it and don't know it. A rheumatologist can help diagnose you. Good luck.

anon140687
Post 7

well you may as well make that 58 people registered. I am having the same problems. Glad to know that it is stress related. A massage must be in order. LOL.

anon135433
Post 6

I do connect it to heat, as many times when approaching a warm room, even when I am on my own I can feel growing sensation, so I know they are becoming red.

For me it is frustrating and I do feel very uncomfortable. I can feel it so probably I trigger it even more (somehow).

anon134720
Post 5

For anyone suffering from chronic red ears like me, you can use Dermablend Smooth Indulgence. Use a lighter base coat and a color that matches your skin - thin coats. Use the powder. Start with clean ears. This actually works and I am very thankful for it which is why I am sharing this with others.

By the way, I am a guy and it works so well, you can't tell. For girls, it's as easy as what they already do for their faces. Best of luck!

anon116609
Post 4

i also have this condition. i have had it for about five years. i am a 43 year old female. i also saw a neurologist and everything was fine. my regular physician also says it's fine. but it is so annoying and very uncomfortable.

i have other conditions that the cause is unknown for such as ibs. both seem to be much worse when I'm stressed!

anon115224
Post 3

I too have this same problem. I thought it had gone away, yet it has reappeared in the past couple of weeks. I truly believe that it is related to stress/anxiety. That seems to be the time that the episodes take place are times of heightened anxiety.

I'm a new grandfather at 42 and they also live here too, for a couple of weeks. Love them with all my heart, but coming home after work has taken a whole new meaning, and a new direction that I had not forecast. It's stress, friends.

anon90033
Post 2

I also have this red hot ear. I have had it for nearly nine months now. It comes and goes. Don't know what the possible reason for this might be. Sometimes it's really irritating.

anon86270
Post 1

I've just seen a neurologist who has diagnosed me with having migraines with aura and red ear syndrome. I've been told its very rare and he sees one every five years. the burning prickly sensation in my ear affects my jaw, ear and cheek and i can certainly feel when i have one. Fortunately while in my appointment i touched my head to describe where i feel the pain and within seconds my ear was bright red. this was good (in one respect) as the consultant could physically see what happens.

I have been prescribed some preventative medication and will see how this helps. I would love to chat with people who have this. I believe there are only about 57 people registered with this rare condition.

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