Allergies and Ear Infections: 3 Overlapping Symptoms

Allergies and Ear Infections: 3 Overlapping Symptoms

Statistics say that two out of five children suffer from allergies, and five out of six children will have at least one ear infection before they turn three. Both have specific symptoms that can prompt a fast, easy diagnosis, but what do you do when things aren’t clear because symptoms overlap? 

The ear, nose, and throat specialists at ENT of New Orleans, with offices in Chalmette, Harvey, New Orleans, and Marrero, Louisiana, can determine if your child’s more subtle symptoms point to allergies or an ear infection and recommend the right treatment in the earliest stages of either.

Signs of allergies

Symptoms of allergies are often highly visible. Allergies typically start with a case of the sniffles followed by runny nose, congestion, or both at the same time. Eyes get itchy, red, and watery, and the entire face can become flushed from the constant rubbing and irritation. 

Allergies can be caused by outdoor seasonal allergens, indoor dust, mold, or pet dander, chemicals like those in cleaning products, or foods. Finding out what’s causing your child's allergies is important not only to give them relief but also to reduce the chances of a severe allergic reaction like anaphylaxis. 

Signs of an ear infection

Ear infection symptoms may be more subtle at first; your child may be crying a lot, rubbing at the side of their head, and then running a fever. They may refuse any form of comfort and press a bunched-up blanket or stuffed animal to their head. 

Most ear infections affect the middle ear and can be quickly cleared up with a round of antibiotic treatment prescribed by your doctor after an exam to confirm the diagnosis. However, some ear infections may be persistent, and your child could end up needing tubes in their ears for a year or more to help with drainage so pressure doesn’t build up and cause pain and infection. 

3 overlapping symptoms between allergies and ear infections

A few symptoms overlap between allergies and ear infections, and these usually show up early in the progression of both conditions. If you know how to recognize these symptoms, you can get your child in to see the doctor quickly and head off a bad allergy attack or serious ear infection before it worsens.

1. Facial irritation

A child that scrubs and rubs at their face and head and possibly pulls their hair is expressing pain or irritation even if they can’t tell you the exact source. This could be itchiness and pain from congestion due to allergies, or it could be pressure and pain caused by an early stage ear infection. If a good face washing doesn’t fix the issue, your child needs to be seen by a doctor.

2. Prolonged fussiness

Both allergies and ear infections can result in a child who seems unhappy and fussy without any clear cause. This is because they’re experiencing feelings of being unwell that they may not be able to articulate, so they cry or whine because they can’t tell you exactly what’s wrong. Never write off a child’s prolonged unhappiness or crying as them simply being “naughty.” You’ll feel awful later if you find out they were sick and you ignored their symptoms. 

3. Inability to sleep

Allergies and ear infections can both cause insomnia. If your child is typically a good sleeper and suddenly can’t get down for the night, it could be pain, pressure, irritation, or congestion to blame, all of which can be caused either by an ear infection or allergies.

When allergies can cause an ear infection

Finally, allergies can actually cause ear pain, whether pollen irritates the eustachian tube or mucus builds up due to histamine release that increases pressure in the ear. If your child has allergies and starts complaining of ear pain, tell your doctor about their allergies. This ensures a thorough examination to ascertain exactly what’s causing the ear symptoms, so no unnecessary antibiotics are prescribed.

To learn more about allergies and ear infections, schedule a consultation with the team at ENT of New Orleans by calling the location closest to you, or requesting an appointment online.

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