Most common causes of otitis media are viral or bacterial infection and often happen during or after respiratory tract infection such as a cold. But did you know that certain allergenic and mucus-forming foods are also linked to middle ear infection? According to Dr Green (1974) in his study of chronic otitis media in Indian children, otitis media is a response of the middle ear to allergic stimulus. Acute and chronically infected ears will clear up without antibiotics or nose drops if one eliminates the dietary causes of the disease. By eliminating certain foods, such as eating or drinking sugar, coffee, milk, cheese and cereal grains for a few weeks, most of the problems will disappear (1). His study was supported by another research published by the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in 1994 which found that out of 104 children with recurrent serous otitis media, 81 had evidence of food allergy (2). Similar research was conducted in Turkey in 2014 of the role of allergy in recurrent otitis media with effusion. The result suggested that allergy plays an important role in the repetitive OME cases thus an allergy test should be utilised for proper diagnostic and therapeutic management of otitis media (3).
Food allergy is a significant and frequently overlooked cause of (or triggering factor for) a wide range of chronic and mental disorders including recurrent otitis media. The abovementioned studies evidently indicate that an allergy test together with routine use of elimination diet in clinical practice can greatly increase the response rate in many children who suffer from agonising ear infections.
Some children may benefit from eliminating common food allergens from the diet. Research has found that children with cow’s milk allergy had experienced significantly more recurrent otitis media (5) because children with food allergy are more likely to suffer from allergic disorder. The immunological reaction causes inflammation in the nose and around the Eustachian tube which impedes with drainage of the middle ear thus causes infection.