Otitis media is the medical term for ear infection, a painful malady that is especially common in children. Adults develop ear infections too, and when they’re related to allergies, they can occur frequently. Figuring out the source of your ear infection is the key to alleviating discomfort.
Ear infections are the result of fluid buildup in the middle ear that becomes trapped. This occurs when a cold virus or allergy attack causes inflammation of the Eustachian tube.
Ear pain is the main symptom of otitis media; it may range from mild to severe. Other signs of ear infection include fever, thick drainage from the ear, loss of appetite, irritability, diminished hearing, trouble sleeping and nausea or vomiting. You may experience tinnitus (ringing in the ear), popping and a feeling of fullness in the ear. Young children may tug at or rub their ear and cry for no apparent reason.
When the immune system encounters a substance it believes is harmful to the body, it releases chemicals called histamines into the bloodstream. These can cause swelling of the Eustachian tube, allowing fluids to become trapped in the middle ear. Germs thrive in this environment. The result? A painful ear infection.
Possible allergen triggers include pollen, animal dander, smoke, dust mites, mold, foods, chemicals and medications.
A thorough physical examination, including a discussion of your symptoms and a review of your medical history, will help your doctor to diagnose otitis media. Diagnostic testing – skin or blood allergy tests – can confirm that allergies are behind your symptoms.
Avoiding the allergen responsible for your symptoms is the best treatment method, but this is not always feasible. Home remedies centered around pain relief, like over-the-counter drugs (Tylenol, Advil, and Motrin) and eardrops, usually help. Supplement this with a warm washcloth or heating pad pressed to the ear. Get plenty of rest so your body can fight off the infection. Persistent cases that do not respond to medical treatment may benefit from immunotherapy (allergy shots).
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