Allergies And Ear Infections, Are They Connected?

Provided by: David Hauswirth, MD (Allergist / Immunologist)

Often we are asked to evaluate someone with ear problems and asked, “do allergies cause ear problems?” The simple answer is yes. The Eustachian tube drains the middle ear into the back of the nose. In someone suffering from allergies, the Eustachian tube can swell or not work correctly. This lack of function and drainage will cause fluid to build in the middle ear, leading to temporary hearing loss and sometimes ear infections.

Patients with allergies will often have ear symptoms. Sometimes the ears will itch, feel full, pop or have pressure. Manytimes clear fluid is found in the middle ear when someone has allergies. This fluid will often drain as allergies are treated. However, if allergies are not treated, this fluid can stay in the middle ear and become infected. Once someone develops an ear infection, the cause and the infection must both be treated.

Children are unique, and they will naturally have more issues with their Eustachian tubes. In a young child, the Eustachian tube is in a more horizontal or flat position. This positioning decreases natural drainage by gravity. When allergies and allergic inflammation are added, kids can have even more trouble clearing fluid. Sometimes when the fluid does not clear and recurrent ear infections are an issue, external drainage tubes (“ear tubes”) are necessary to help clear fluid from the middle ear to prevent infection.

In children, it is important to determine the cause of ear problems. It may simply be upper respiratory infections, young age, and anatomy or allergies. It is important to talk to your doctor if you think allergies are causing symptoms, and if you have ear infections, they may be related.