Otitis media with effusion (OME) refers to fluid in the middle ear space without the symptoms of an acute ear infection like fever or redness of the ear drum. Fluid builds up when the Eustachian tube, which connects the inner ear to the back of the throat and drains secretions, gets blocked by inflammation from respiratory infections, allergies, or environmental irritants like cigarette smoke. It usually affects younger children. Treatment may consist of observation, antibiotics, hearing tests, and ear tube placement depending on how long the ear effusion has been present.
However, the study did not differentiate between allergic and non-allergic OME patients. Up to 40% of OME have an allergic component and numerous studies have shown improvement in OME patients with allergic rhinitis with use of antihistamines and other allergy medications, avoidance of allergy triggers, and allergen immunotherapy in resolving and preventing recurrent OME episodes.
The bottom line is: One size does not fit all. While antihistamines and decongestants may not work for OME patients without allergies, they are effective in OME patients with allergies particularly in preventing recurrent episodes.
- Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2006 Oct.18;(4):CD003423.
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