Food Allergies May Be Linked to Ear Infection

Food Allergy Seen in Nearly Half of Children With Ear Infections

From the WebMD Archives

June 22, 2004 -- Children with food allergies may be more likely to develop ear infections, according to new research.

The study showed that nearly half of children with a common type of ear infection that causes a buildup of fluid behind the eardrum, known as otitis media with effusion, also had food allergies.

Researchers say previous studies on the link between food allergy and ear infection have produced mixed results, but this study shows that food allergy may somehow contribute to the development of the condition and the connection merits further research.

Ear infection is the most common cause of pediatrician office visits among young children. Fluid buildup is common following painful ear infections, but it may also rarely occur without infection. The condition may cause stuffiness in the ears or difficulty hearing, but some children don't experience any symptoms.

Treatment for children with frequent ear infections with fluid buildup usually involves inserting tubes to allow the ear canal to drain.

More Research Needed

In the study, researchers looked at the relationship between food allergy and ear infections in three groups of children. The first group had ear infections with fluid buildup, the second had food allergies, and the third didn't have either condition.

Researchers detected food allergies in 45% of those with ear infections, and ear infections were found in 25% of the children with food allergies.

In comparison, only 18% of those in the third group had food allergies, and 3% had an ear infection.

Researchers say previous studies have shown the frequency of food allergies among children with ear infections ranged from 0% to 80%. Together with the results from this study, published in the June issue of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, researchers say it's clear that there is little consensus about how common food allergy is in children with ear infections.

However, the frequency of food allergy in the children in this study may suggest that food allergies play a role in the development of ear infections with fluid buildup and larger studies are needed to look at this association.

SOURCE: Aydogan, B. Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, June 2004; vol 130: pp 747-750.

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