Allergies, or allergic rhinitis, are linked to several irritating and frustrating symptoms. Alone they do not directly cause earaches. They do, however, affect other areas of the body linked to the ears, which can cause pain and also cause conditions that might make it easier for ear pain to develop.
Why Do Allergies Cause Ear Pain?
When people think about allergy symptoms, most people will think of sneezing, dealing with a runny nose and sore throat, and itchy, watery eyes. But allergies also cause congestion, which forms the connection between allergies and ear pain. Allergies affect your nose and your sinuses.
Both nasal passages and sinus cavities are connected to your ears. Congestion in your nose or sinuses can lead to swelling and inflammation that increase the pressure on your ears, leading to discomfort and even ear pain.
How can your ear canals become inflamed? The problem generally starts in your Eustachian tubes. They are one of the most important parts of your ears. These tubes connect your middle ear to the back of your throat and nasal passages. When they are clear, the tubes help you equalize pressure between your ears and their surroundings, for example, during airplane take-off and landing.
When Eustachian tubes become inflamed and swollen, it becomes harder for air to move through them. The inflammation makes it harder to equalize pressure and can cause significant pain. Left untreated, inflammation of your Eustachian tubes or ear canals and surrounding tissues can quickly develop into a full ear infection.
It is often assumed that ear infections only affect children, but that’s wrong. Adults are just as likely to suffer earaches or ear infections as kids are.
What Does Ear Pain From Allergies Feel Like?
Ear pain from allergies can take different forms. A feeling of fullness in the ear can often be the first indicator that something is going wrong with your ears. Some people also report a sensation of pressure in one or both ears.
Earaches can affect your hearing, making it seem like sounds are muffled rather than clear and easy to understand. Crackling or popping sounds are common, too, and you may notice fluid draining from your ears.
If your ear problems become more serious, they can cause significant pain. At this stage, you may find sleeping on the affected side impossible.
Types of Ear Pain Caused by Allergies
Ear pain that is caused by allergies can lead to inflammation and ear infections.
Pressure building up inside your ears is often a predecessor to ear pain. The pressure you’re experiencing may stem from fluid or mucus trapped in your ear that can’t drain away naturally.
The stronger the pressure becomes, the more pain you may feel. Left untreated, what started as pressure might develop into a full infection.
Inflammation of your Eustachian tubes can be extremely painful. When they are healthy, the Eustachian tubes allow air to travel freely between your nose, throat, and ears. This is how our bodies equalize pressure. When your allergies are flaring up, the Eustachian tubes may become inflamed, causing ear pain.
Your Eustachian tubes also provide a path for fluid to drain from your ears. When fluid can’t drain because of a blockage caused by inflammation, bacteria will grow, often leading to a full-blown ear infection.
Pain is only one symptom of infected ears, but it’s important to recognize it as a warning sign. Left untreated, earaches can lead to temporary hearing loss. The longer you allow the ear infection to linger, the longer your treatment and recovery may take.
What Else Causes Ear Pain?
Allergies are only one of the potential causes of ear pain. Your ears may also hurt because of a middle ear infection, swimmer’s ear, ear wax, or toothache. Identifying the cause of our earache may help you find solutions and relief. Below, we’ve listed some of the common causes.
Middle Ear Infection
Middle ear infections are the most common cause of ear pain. Your ears may become infected due to a cold or a sinus infection. Either can block your Eustachian tubes, leading to fluid build-up and infection. Ear infections need to be treated to avoid potential hearing loss.
Swimmer’s ear is also known as an outer ear infection. If you feel pain when you pull your ear lobe or touch the flap that closes your ear, you may suffer from swimmer’s ear. This condition develops when water becomes trapped in your ear canal, and germs start breeding. Dry your ears after swimming to prevent the condition. Once it has developed, you may need antibiotic ear drops to dry it up.
Our ears produce and discharge earwax all the time. Usually, you don’t even notice that anything is happening. However, if this process is not working well, earwax can build up and harden. Hardened – or impacted – wax can block your ear canal and cause pain. Ask your doctor to remove the wax. Don’t try to do it yourself. You may impact the wax more and make the problem worse.
Toothache and Other Causes
Can a toothache cause ear pain? Yes, and here’s how: many of the nerves in your neck and your face run close to your inner ear. That means pain can travel from something like a tooth to your ears. Throat infections like tonsillitis and pharyngitis can also cause ear pain. Your ears may give you more pain than your throat in these cases.
What Helps Prevent Ear Pain Due to Allergies?
Managing allergies can be difficult, but it is the best way of preventing ear pain caused by allergies. Understanding the allergens your body reacts to is the first step toward containing and reducing symptoms. Containing or avoiding an allergic reaction is the only way to prevent ear pain.
Some people take allergy medication as soon as they can feel the reaction developing. Anyone suffering from hay fever or other seasonal allergies might need to start taking medication earlier, even before the body has come into contact with the allergen. This stops your body from releasing histamines, the chemicals that are responsible for the allergic reaction.
How To Relieve Ear Pain From Allergies
To relieve ear pain caused by allergies, you need to tackle the causes or triggers of your allergies. Of course, you can treat the symptoms, but they will likely re-occur if the underlying causes have not been addressed. Resolving underlying causes starts by identifying your allergens.
Your doctor can help with specific tests. Once the allergens are known, you can discuss treatment options with your doctor. Once the allergy has been treated, your ear pain should resolve itself. If it persists, make sure to ask your allergist for advice. The ear pain may have become an ear infection, requiring further treatment.
When to See a Doctor
Depending on the severity of your ear pain and any other allergy symptoms you’re experiencing, you may be fine using only over-the-counter (OTC) medications and other remedies. However, there are certain circumstances when it is a good idea to seek a professional opinion.
If you’re unsure about the underlying cause of your ear pain, don’t hesitate to consult a specialist. A doctor can help determine the cause of your ear problems and suggest the most suitable treatment.
The same is true when you’re not sure about the triggers of your allergies. Without identifying those triggers, it’s almost impossible to manage them effectively. Your doctor can help you determine what causes the allergic reaction and start treating it.
Doctors can also provide prescription-only symptom relief for allergies and ear pain. If you think you have an ear infection, you may need antibiotics. Don’t hesitate to seek professional treatment if your ear pain persists for more than two or three days.
How to Diagnose Allergies
If you are experiencing allergy symptoms, it is important to get tested and diagnosed by a professional. Knowing what your triggers are will help you find more effective treatment plans and long-term relief from your symptoms. There are two primary methods of allergy testing available.
Skin Prick Test
Skin prick testing is conducted in a doctor's office and is the most common way to test for allergies. During the test, a small amount of an allergen is pricked into your skin to observe and track any allergic reaction. If you are allergic to any tested substances, you will likely develop bumps or hives at the injection site.
At-Home Allergy Test
If you're looking for a less painful, more convenient alternative to prick testing, an at-home kit may be your best option. Here's how it works:
- Get Wyndly’s at-home allergy test. We ship our CLIA-certified test straight to your door.
- Take the allergy test and send it back to us. Just do a quick finger prick test to provide us with a blood sample and mail it back when you’re done.
- Receive your personal allergy profile. Our doctor will interpret your results, create an allergy profile, and walk you through a treatment plan.
Wyndly's at-home testing can offer insight into the full breadth of your allergies. Results will detail exactly what substances you're reactive to and the steps you can take to mitigate the symptoms.
How to Treat Seasonal Allergies
If you find yourself struggling with allergies and the symptoms that come along with them, there are a few things you can do to get some relief.
Limiting exposure to your allergy triggers is one of the most effective ways to prevent allergy symptoms. While some allergens are difficult to completely avoid, there are ways to reduce your exposure.
- Check pollen counts: Pollen is the most common allergy trigger. Unfortunately, there's no way to avoid it completely. However, you can keep an eye on pollen levels in your area and try to limit your time outdoors on high-pollen days.
- Watch your outdoor hours: Pollen levels fluctuate throughout the day and are often highest in the early morning and afternoon. If you're planning on going outside during the day, doing so during the evening is safest.
- Keep windows closed: Pollen is airborne and can easily enter your home through an open window. Be sure to keep your windows shut and opt for A/C, especially during high-pollen count days.
- Take shoes off: You can track pollen into your home on your clothing and shoes. Be sure to take your shoes off as soon as you step inside to keep pollen levels down.
- Wipe off pets: Your pets can also track pollen into your home. Give them a quick wipe-down before they come inside to minimize the amount of pollen in your home.
- Clean your home: Using a vacuum with a HEPA filter can help remove pollen, pet dander, and dust mites from carpets and upholstered furniture. Be sure to do this regularly, especially during allergy season when levels are highest.
- Wash off when you get home: If you've been outside during the day, be sure to take a shower and wash your hair before going to bed. This will help to remove any pollen that may be on your body and clothing.
- Do laundry more often: Do laundry frequently during allergy season to avoid pollen buildup on your clothes. Also, opt to use a dryer instead of leaving them on a line outside.
If limiting your exposure to allergens isn't enough, there are a variety of OTC medications that can help with short-term symptom relief.
- Antihistamines: Antihistamines work by temporarily blocking histamine, a chemical that your body releases in response to an allergic trigger. This relieves symptoms like itchiness, sneezing, and a runny nose.
- Decongestants: Decongestants can help provide short-term relief from your congestion.
- Nasal sprays: Nasal sprays clear pollen and other allergens from your nasal passages and reduce inflammation. This relieves symptoms like congestion.
Sublingual immunotherapy is an allergy treatment that gradually exposes your body to your allergy triggers. Over time this allows your immune system to become desensitized to the allergen, which reduces your symptoms.
Sublingual immunotherapy is administered in the form of allergy drops or tablets that are placed under the tongue. These can be self-administered in the comfort of your home, making them a convenient and effective option for treating your allergies.
Are You Ready to Find Long-Lasting Allergy Relief?
Ear pain is uncomfortable and disruptive, but there are solutions. Wyndly offers long-term solutions to allergies. Our allergy experts can identify your triggers and develop a personalized treatment plan to help you get rid of your allergy symptoms.
Take our two-minute assessment and be one step closer to long-lasting relief!