Can allergies affect your ears?

March 24, 2022

Ear Nose and Throat Primary Care Healthy Aging
Portrait of teenage girl blowing her nose on a summer day

You likely know someone who battles with allergies – or perhaps you even do yourself. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, from hay fever and dust to pollen and cat dander, allergies affect more than 50 million Americans. “More people than ever struggle with allergies today – and that number is on the rise,” says Catherine Lintzenich, M.D.

What are allergies?

Allergies happen when your immune system overreacts to a trigger. Usually, your immune system keeps your body healthy by attacking foreign invaders, such as viruses and bacteria. But in some cases, the immune system attacks fairly harmless invaders known as allergens which trigger allergy symptoms. 

Common allergens

Allergens can be eaten, breathed in or contact the skin. Common allergens include:

  • Hay fever (seasonal allergies)
  • Dust or mold
  • Animal dander (tiny pieces of skin)
  • Peanuts or tree nuts
  • Wheat
  • Soy
  • Fish or shellfish
  • Eggs 
  • Milk
  • Bee or wasp sting
  • Penicillin-based medications

Allergies and your ears

“Some of the most common allergy symptoms include sneezing, itchy eyes, coughing or a sore throat,” explains Dr. Lintzenich. “But there is another less common, yet quite painful, allergy symptom that plagues some people – ear pain.”

The lining of the Eustachian tube (passage connecting the throat to the ear) can become swollen when your immune system overreacts to an allergen. This swelling can cause pressure and pain – along with fluid buildup and a blocked ear.

Can allergies cause ear infections?

If you have allergies, you’re at an increased risk for developing an ear infection. The fluid buildup in your ear is a prime location for bacteria to grow and multiply. And bacteria can lead to an infection known as otitis media. Symptoms of this type of ear infection can include:

  • Dizziness and other balance issues
  • Ear pain
  • Ringing in your ears (tinnitus)
  • Trouble hearing

Get care for your allergies

A Riverside primary care provider can help you better manage your allergies so that they don’t lead to troublesome complications like an earache or ear infection. Find a health care provider today.

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