Approximately 50 million Americans suffer from allergy symptoms every year. Nearly 20 million adults are affected by allergic rhinitis, also known as hay fever. If you are one of those allergy sufferers, you may experience a range of symptoms. Ear pressure or ear pain can be one of them.
Can Allergies Cause Ear Pressure?
Understanding how seasonal allergies cause ear pressure starts with understanding how allergic reactions work. Allergies are effectively hypersensitivities to specific substances. Some people react to specific foods, while others are triggered by plant pollen or pet dander. The hypersensitivity prompts a defense response from your immune system.
As the immune system responds to a perceived threat, it produces a chemical substance known as histamine. Histamines lead to swelling, increased mucus production, and also causes itching. Most people suffering from nasal allergies report itchy eyes and a runny nose, and some also have a sore throat.
Your nose and throat are connected to your sinuses as well as your ears. As tissues in the nose and throat deal with the irritation, your sinuses may start swelling and allowing fluid to build up. This swelling can eventually affect your ear canals.
As part of the allergic reaction, the eustachian tubes that connect your ears, nose, and sinuses may become inflamed. Inflammation can cause fluid buildup in your ear canals or behind the ear drum. As the eustachian tubes become more and more blocked, the blockage can lead to pressure building up. Left untreated, the discomfort caused by ear pressure can lead to ear pain or even an ear infection.
Ear infections are more than a childhood illness. They may be more common in children but can affect people of all ages. Serious ear infections can block the ear canal so severely that they cause conductive hearing loss.
You may experience ear pressure in your outer ear as well as the middle ear.
What Does Ear Pressure From Allergies Feel Like?
Symptoms of ear pressure can affect allergy sufferers in different ways. Some people report a feeling of fullness in their middle ear, while others report sinus pressure that spreads to the ears and causes ear discomfort. Ear pain can affect one or both ears.
Some patients also find that their hearing is reduced by swelling, while others hear crackling or popping noises. When eustachian tubes become blocked due to allergies, they tend to fill up with fluid and wax. As the buildup increases in one eustachian tube or both, your discomfort will also grow.
When discomfort turns into ear pain, it may be a sign of the blocked ear developing a middle ear infection.
What Else Causes Ear Pressure and Pain?
Experiencing ear pain and ear pressure is not always a sign of allergies. Plenty of other triggers and conditions can cause ear discomfort.
A Buildup of Ear Wax
Ear wax is part of the natural protective layer of our ear canals. It acts as a barrier that stops bacteria and dirt from entering your ear canal. In addition, it works as a natural moisturizer in an area that would otherwise be exposed.
Normally, our ears are highly efficient at producing and getting rid of ear wax. Most people do not need to do anything to remove wax from their ears. In fact, cleaning too much, for example by pushing a Q-tip into your ear, may wedge the wax against your ear drum. This cleaning could also push dirt or bacteria deeper into your ears.
As wax builds up, either due to overproduction or improper cleaning, it can become hard. As a result, you could feel pressure from this increased level of ear wax. Medical professionals refer to this as impacted wax. Once ear wax reaches this stage, you may need professional medical help to remove it.
Changes in Barometric Pressure
Changes in barometric pressure are another common cause of ear pressure or discomfort. Most of us experience this on airplanes. As the plane takes off, you may feel your ears popping because the pressure around you decreases.
The opposite happens when the plane starts its descent. Pressure increases around you, pushing on your eardrums. Most of us can equalize this pressure by chewing or swallowing. However, if your ear canals are blocked or swollen, pressure may turn into ear pain.
Sudden weather changes can have equally dramatic effects on some people's ears. Like traveling by airplane, walking or driving up and down mountains can also cause you to feel pressure in your ears.
Having an Ear Infection
Infections in your outer ear, middle ear, or inner ear can also lead to a feeling of fullness or ear pressure. A middle ear infection can be especially painful. Some patients report feeling pressure in their ears as the infection develops.
Seasonal allergies may further exacerbate the symptoms of pressure, discomfort, and pain caused by ear infections. Treating ear pain effectively starts with a diagnosis by a medical professional that helps you understand the causes before looking at treatment options.
What Helps Prevent Ear Pain Due to Allergies?
If you know that you start experiencing allergy symptoms as soon as pollen counts increase, you can try different measures to manage your allergic reaction. Managing allergic reactions begins with identifying what triggered your immune system and ruling out other causes of your ear pressure.
Allergy testing allows you and your doctor to pinpoint precisely what led to your symptoms. The most common tests involve skin testing or blood tests. Once the cause is known, it becomes easier to target and relieve it.
How to Relieve Ear Pressure From Allergies
If you are suffering from ear pain due to an allergic reaction, there are a few options to help address how our allergies affect you. However, the most effective approach to relieving ear problems in this context remains to address the allergy itself.
A corticosteroid nasal spray is a simple over-the-counter (OTC) option that can reduce inflammation in your nasal passages. Reducing swelling in your nose may also diminish the discomfort you feel in your ears.
Treating ear pain with allergy medications is another option for fast relief. OTC antihistamines can temporarily reduce symptoms, including fullness or pressure in your ears. You can also take some medications as a preventative measure when allergy season starts.
When to See a Doctor
Dealing with severe allergy symptoms not only impacts your quality of life. The swelling and inflammation that cause pressure or pain in your ears can develop into an even more painful ear infection.
Apart from being painful, infections like these may lead to hearing loss. Although this hearing loss may be temporary, it should be taken seriously. If your hearing is deteriorating due to allergies, do not hesitate to schedule an appointment with your physician.
If you are not sure about your specific allergy triggers, seeing a doctor to identify those triggers is an excellent first step toward avoiding or eradicating them.
While numerous OTC medications are available to treat hay fever symptoms, you may want to see your doctor to discuss a longer-term solution, such as immunotherapy. Plus, your doctor may be able to prescribe more effective medication to address your ear pressure.
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.
Nasal sprays, like those containing oxymetazoline or naphazoline, can help to reduce inflammation in the nasal cavities. They are best used as a short-term solution, however, since overuse can lead to further congestion.
Decongestants work by reducing swelling and inflammation in your nasal passages. This can help to open up your airways and make breathing easier. Common decongestants include pseudoephedrine, oxymetazoline, and phenylephrine.
Antihistamines, such as cetirizine or loratadine, can help to reduce the severity of your symptoms by blocking the effects of histamine, a natural compound released during an allergic reaction.
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.
Take Our Allergy Assessment
Wyndly is an excellent resource for allergy sufferers. Our doctors will create a personalized treatment plan for you to get rid of your allergies. Take our quick online assessment to get one step closer to living free from your allergies!