Ear Infections and Allergies in Children
Chronic ear infections often occur in children under the age of 6 years. In addition to the pain and discomfort from the infection, there can be rounds of antibiotics which may not address the root cause of the problem.
The middle ear is connected to the throat through a passage called the Eustachian tube. In children this tube is smaller in diameter, shorter and more horizontal. The cells that line the middle ear are similar to the lining of the upper respiratory tract therefore agents which cause inflammation in the upper airway can impact the middle ear as well.
For example: Allergic inflammation in nasal passages, such as those that occur with seasonal allergies, can lead to swelling and obstruction of the eustachian tubes, resulting in negative pressure within the middle ear. Brief opening of the Eustachian tube can result in drawing up of secretions from the back of the throat into the middle ear. These secretion may contain bacteria, viruses, etc. which can be trapped in the middle ear resulting in an infection in the middle ear. Alles et al found that 50% of children with chronic otitis media also have nasal allergies.
Food allergies and sensitivities can also have a role in chronic otitis media. Allergy to cow’s milk, wheat and eggs are the most frequent encountered in young children. Derebery and Berliner tested 151 patients with eustachian tube dysfunction found that food allergy was positive for 92%.
A trial of eliminating those foods which might contribute to inflammation in eustachian tube is one method of determining whether allergies are at the root of chronic ear infections.
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