It is reported that 7.7% of adults and 7.2% of children under the age of 18 suffer from seasonal allergies every year. This equates to over 20 million people in the US, and allergies can be responsible for a whole host of additional health concerns. There are strong links between allergies and respiratory issues, but what else can happen when you suffer from hayfever?
One common question that a lot of people ask is whether or not allergies cause ear infections. You may suffer from chronic ear infections, and you have noticed they tend to come about when your allergies are at their worst. Is there a link? If so, what is it?
Can seasonal allergies cause ear infections?
Yes, there is definitely a link between allergies and ear infections. While an ear infection is unlikely to be a common symptom of allergies, it can be something that comes along as a result of some of your existing symptoms.
How do allergies cause ear infections?
To begin, we need to look at the ear as a whole. It is split into three different parts:
- The outer ear that you can see
- The middle ear
- The inner ear
When it comes to ear infections and allergies, your point of concern is the middle ear. Specifically, we are looking at the eustachian tube – which connects the middle ear to the nasal passages. Infections can occur when an individual suffers from something called eustachian tube dysfunction.
What does this mean? In essence, it refers to the chronic blockage of this tube. There are many things that can cause this, but congestion is seen as a key factor by a lot of people. Consequently, there have been studies that suggest allergies can cause ear infections because they lead to extra nasal congestion. This narrows the eustachian tube and can prevent fluids from draining out of the ear, leading to pain and infections if left untreated.
When fluids are not correctly drained from the ear, they boost the chances of bacteria and viruses growing inside it. Hence, allergies cause ear infections because they create an environment for this to happen. In summary, it is all down to the congestion you feel as a symptom of your seasonal allergies.
Symptoms & signs
How do you know if you have an ear infection caused by allergies?
For starters, you should look for the signs and symptoms of seasonal allergies, including:
- Itchy eyes
- Itchy/sore throat
- Nasal congestion
Nasal congestion is obviously the key thing to be wary of as it will likely cause eustachian ear dysfunction, which can lead to these symptoms:
- Pain and tenderness inside your ear that comes and goes
- Muffled hearing or a feeling of ‘blocked’ ears
- Swelling around your ears
- Drainage of fluids from the infected ear
Ultimately, the presence of ear pain and problems with your ear alongside your seasonal allergies will be enough to indicate that you have an ear infection. But, if you have an ear infection or see the signs of an ear infection without suffering from your allergies, the chances are it can be caused by something else.
For instance, you might have an inner ear infection, which displays slightly different symptoms. Most notably, you won’t see the same sinus pressure or congestion while having an earache or pain. You are also more likely to suffer from dizziness or vertigo with an inner ear infection, along with general problems balancing.
Treatments for ear infections caused by allergies
Treating your ear infection will require a two-step process. Firstly, you need to treat the infection itself to see a reduction in your symptoms. Generally, a course of antibiotics will be used if the infection has started to develop.
Secondly, you need to address what’s causing the infection; your allergies.
Therefore, you should try taking allergy medication to reduce your symptoms. Antihistamine tablets are a good place to start and will usually be taken once per day. It is a good idea to take them before the allergy season starts, allowing your body to build a tolerance to the allergen that triggers your symptoms.
Alongside this, there is a lot of evidence that suggests intranasal steroids are highly effective for treating allergic rhinitis. These are sold as nasal corticosteroid sprays that can be bought online or prescribed. Using these sprays can help to reduce inflammation in the nasal passages and prevent rhinitis – which is severe nasal congestion.
Another popular treatment for people suffering from seasonal allergies is to get an allergy shot. Studies have shown that allergy shots help to prevent the symptoms of seasonal allergies by giving your body a small dose of the thing you’re allergic to. As a result, your immune system learns to become more resistant to the allergens, so your symptoms are not as severe.
Treat your allergies and you can prevent ear infections from occurring!
When to see a doctor?
If you notice the signs of an ear infection – particularly if there is ear drainage – you should see a doctor right away. While allergy medication can be bought online, it might not help you treat the infection itself. Instead, you will need antibiotics prescribed by a doctor.
Get help from an online doctor
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Allergies can cause a whole host of additional problems throughout your body, including ear infections. This is down to congestion in your nasal passageways that lead to eustachian tube dysfunction, causing increased pressure and preventing fluids from draining properly. As a result, these fluids stay in your ear and can harbor bacteria that create an infection.
Treatment can be found in the form of antibiotics for your ear infection, while general allergy medication can decrease your symptoms and prevent further infections from happening.
- Allergies and Hay Fever. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/allergies.htm
- Eustachian Tube Dysfunction. Standford Medicine. Available from: https://med.stanford.edu/ohns/OHNS-healthcare/earinstitute/conditions-and-services/conditions/eustachian-tube-dysfunction.html
- A.G.M. Schilder,M.F. Bhutta,C.C. Butler,C. Holy,L.H. Levine,K.J. Kvaerner,G. Norman,R.J. Pennings,D. Poe,J.T. Silvola,H. Sudhoff,V.J. Lund (2015). Eustachian tube dysfunction: consensus statement on definition, types, clinical presentation and diagnosis. Clinical Otolaryngology. 2015, 40, 407– 411. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1111/coa.12475
- Craig LaForce, Use of nasal steroids in managing allergic rhinitis, Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Volume 103, Issue 3, Supplement, 1999, Pages S388-S394, ISSN 0091-6749,Doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0091-6749(99)70218-6 .