Ear Infections in Adults and Children: Can Allergies Be the Cause?

Can Allergies Cause Ear Infections-

When my daughter was two, she had multiple ear infections back to back that were quite stubborn to manage because they didn’t respond well to antibiotics. Since my son has food allergies, I started to wonder about all the possible ways our body can react to food, both good and bad and I it made me curious if it was possible to have a chronic ear infection from allergies, so I did a little research.

According to the Mayo Clinic, an ear infection is caused by blockage in the middle ear due to an accumulation of liquids from “swelling, inflammation and mucus in the eustachian tubes from an upper respiratory infection or allergy.” They can cause a variety of symptoms such as in:


  • Ear pain, especially when lying down
  • Tugging or pulling at an ear
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Crying more than usual
  • Acting more irritable than usual
  • Difficulty hearing or responding to sounds
  • Loss of balance
  • Fever of 100 F (38 C) or higher
  • Drainage of fluid from the ear
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite


  • Ear pain
  • Drainage of fluid from the ear
  • Diminished hearing

Ear infections are no walk in the park and can be excruciatingly painful and can come on quite suddenly. When my daughter was suffering it tore me to pieces seeing her cry and rub her ears knowing there was no way to immediately ease her pain.

YES! Food Allergies Can Cause Ear Infections

There are the more common, well known allergic reactions to food, such: a tingling sensation in the mouth, swelling of the tongue and the throat, difficulty breathing, hives, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhea, etc. Symptoms typically appear within minutes to two hours after the person has eaten the food to which he or she is allergic.

And then there are the lesser known food allergy symptoms, such as ear infections.

While it is more widely known that seasonal allergies can trigger ear infections, we now know that food allergies can irritate the ear as well.

In one study (1), researchers found 45% of children who had the most common type of ear infection that causes a buildup of fluid behind the eardrum, known as otitis media, also had food allergies. And 25% of children in the study who had food allergies, also had an ear infection at the time.

Another study (2) found that children with cow’s milk allergy since infancy had a significantly higher chance of developing chronic ear infections.

In yet another study (3), 104 children with recurrent ear problems were tested for food allergies. About a third were allergic to milk and another third allergic to wheat for a total of 81 children with allergies. When parents were asked to eliminate the offending foods from their child’s diet, seventy children saw major improvement in their ear infections.

I honestly had no idea that food allergies could cause ear infections , but what is the connection you ask? Food allergies cause nasal congestion and also congestion in the eustachian tubes that connect the nose and ear. This allows fluid to collect in the middle ear which can lead to infections. Most pediatricians treat ear infections with antibiotics or drainage tubes, which doesn’t get to the root cause of the problem. For us, eliminating dairy and using homeopathy for ear infections was the answer, but it will be different for everyone.


Takeaway:  If your child has reoccurring ear infections and or excessive ear wax, it’s possible food allergies could be to blame. Consider an allergy test or an elimination diet under a physician’s supervision.


Do you or your child have food allergies and suffer with chronic ear infections?



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

(2) Juntti H1, Tikkanen S, Kokkonen J, Alho OP, Niinimäki A. Cow’s milk allergy is associated with recurrent otitis media during childhood. Acta Otolaryngol. 1999;119(8):867-73.

(3) Food allergies linked to ear infections. Science News, Oct 8, 1994



  1. VintageMom on November 7, 2011 at 1:24 pm

    Yes! My oldest son has a tremendous amount of earwax… he’s an earwax FACTORY! Of my three boys, all of whom have multiple food allergies, he is the most allergic. Never realized there was a connection though! Amazing what food can do to your body…

    Lisa @ Allergy Free Vintage Cookery

    • Jennifer on November 7, 2011 at 2:34 pm

      I know! I think food allergies, intolerances, and sensitives are all fueling a lot more health issues than any of us are really aware.

  2. Susan H. on November 7, 2011 at 7:04 pm

    It all makes so much more sense to me now knowing that ear infections are related to food allergies! My eldest son, with multiple food allergies, had back to back ear infections up until he was 18 months old when he had tubes put in. We struggled for years with eczema and kept him away from all his food allergy triggers. He still has all his food allergies, has seemingly ‘outgrown’ the eczema and has been ear infection clear since having the tubes put in. I have seasonal allergies which lead me to back to back sinus infections throughout the winter…using my nasal spray has eleviated the problem. I also eat local honey as I had heard it can help with seasonal allergies. Susan H. @ the food allergy chronicles

    • Jennifer on November 7, 2011 at 7:26 pm

      Everyone seems to have such luck with the nasal spray – we do it occasionally when our kids are sick, but we just haven’t been diligent with it. Maybe that’s something we need to try harder with this winter with cold season. I’ve thought about the honey too – I have seasonal allergies as well. What type of local honey do you like best? I would love to do a honey taste test. We’re just getting into the good raw stuff now. Is there a type that is best for allergies?

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