As if allergies weren’t uncomfortable enough with their nose-running and -sneezing, eye-watering and -itching inconvenience, it’s also possible for them to cause discomfort in another area: your ears. Although the two might not seem connected, ear pain can result from allergies because the ears, nose, and throat are all connected inside your head.
Because of this internal connection in the sinuses, it’s possible that what stuffs up your nose is also stuffing up your ears. Some symptoms of allergy-caused ear problems include dizziness, aching, and a muffled sensation – the same one you get when in a plane that makes you feel they need to “pop”. This is the result of fluid backing up into the Eustachian tube, which normally adjusts pressure on its own by draining fluid; when the sinuses are filled with excess fluid and mucus, however, it can spread to the ear, where it causes the same problem.
This swelling and buildup of fluid can range from uncomfortable – the muffled sensation and dulled sense of hearing – to painful aching. If left untreated, it can cause more serious problems as well, such as fever, vertigo, and even loss of hearing. It can also turn into a full-blown ear infection.
The first and most basic step is to treat your allergies, whether through medication or even allergy shots; this can help prevent ear pain in the first place. To treat your symptoms in the meantime, relieving the decongestion is key. Moisture and hydration are essential for this: try using a saline nasal rinse or a steam treatment (from a hot shower, a bowl of hot water, or a warm washcloth held over your face) to flush out your sinuses and open up the nasal cavities. A nasal decongestant spray is another option, but don’t overuse them. Drink plenty of water, which thins mucus, and avoid things that encourage water retention and affect circulation, such as caffeine, salt, and alcohol. Over the counter pain-killers like ibuprofen can be used to treat pain.
Extreme temperatures and pressures also exacerbate ear pain from allergies, so if possible, stay off of planes, mountains, and scuba trips until you’ve recovered, and avoid extremely hot or cold climates.