Seasonal Allergies and your ears, what you need to know.
by Envoy Medical Staff Member, on April 1, 2023
More than 100 million people in the US experience various types of allergies each year. In 2021 alone approximately 81 million in the US were diagnosed with seasonal allergies (allergic rhinitis) commonly known as hay fever.
Seasonal allergies occur throughout spring, summer, and fall seasons as various mold spores, tree pollens, and grass or weeds are released into the air. If you are allergic, your body treats these allergens as a threat, causing your immune system to go into overdrive by releasing histamines. The release of histamines can cause common allergy symptoms such as itchy or watery eyes, sneezing, nasal congestion, incessant itching in the ears, and fatigue.
Our ears and our hearing can be impacted by seasonal allergies. The Eustachian tube is a narrow tube that links the back of the nose to the middle ear. It is normally closed but opens when you swallow, yawn, or chew. The eustachian tube protects the middle ear from pathogens, ventilates the middle ear by equalizing pressure on either side of the eardrum, and helps drain secretions from the middle ear.
When allergens are high, histamines can cause the sinuses to can generate excessive mucus. This fluid streams down the cavity of the middle ear affecting your eustachian tubes which may be swollen and inflamed and can lead to muffled hearing, pain, pressure, or a clogged sensation in the ear. Allergies can put you more at risk of ear infections.
What should you do if you are experiencing symptoms?
While there is no cure for allergies, there are steps you can take to minimize your exposure.
Make a habit of checking the pollen count in your area (try pollen.com) and plan your time outdoors accordingly. Pollen counts are highest in the morning and on windy days. Some people find wearing a mask helpful if they have to be outside.
Keep your home as allergen-free as possible by keeping windows shut and taking your shoes off at the door. Make sure your air conditioner has a good filter and vacuum and dust regularly.
Be sure to shower before bed if you have spent time outdoors to rinse the pollen from your skin and hair. Don't use a clothing line to dry clothing or bedding as it will collect allergens. Don't forget about pets. Sleeping with pets could make your allergies worse.
There are OTC antihistamine medications that can help reduce symptoms as well as nasal sprays. It's important to remember these medications work best preventatively. Dr. William E. Berger, MD a Board-certified allergist and immunologist suggests starting 2-4 weeks before your allergy season begins.
Physicians can prescribe steroid medications or prescription nasal sprays that can provide some relief, and there are other newer treatment options to explore such as immunotherapy.
Taking precautions to minimize exposure and using OTC medications should be helpful to you. If you find yourself struggling frequently, it's a good idea to get tested to have a better idea of what to avoid and have your doctor direct you to the most appropriate solutions.
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