• allergic rhinitis;
  • asthma;
  • atopy;
  • multivariate analysis;
  • otitis media with effusion

Background and aims:  Epidemiological evidence examining the role of atopy and/or allergy in the pathogenesis of otitis media with effusion (OME) is inconclusive. The aim of this study was to assess any increased risk for OME attributable to allergy-related factors, in a well-characterized population using a case-control design and multivariate analysis.

Subjects and methods:  Eighty-eight 1–7-year-old children with OME, diagnosed by clinical and tympanometric evaluation and 80 matched controls were enrolled. A standardized questionnaire was completed, in order to assess factors related to OME and allergy-related symptoms and diagnoses using strict clinical definitions. Specific IgE was measured by skin-prick tests and/or CAP-FEIA.

Results:  The patient and control groups were well matched. Factors conferring increased risk for OME in the univariate analysis included IgE sensitization, dyspnea, wheezing, asthma, paroxysmal sneezing, rhinitis, eczema, ‘any allergic disease,’ family history of otitis media, and family history of allergy. After multivariate analysis IgE sensitization, wheezing, nasal obstruction, family history of otitis, and child-care attendance remained as independent risk factors for development of OME.

Conclusion:  IgE sensitization and respiratory allergy symptoms are independent risk factors for the development of OME, suggesting that both immunological and mechanical pathways may contribute to the development of the disease. Otitis heritability provides additional risk, as well as frequent exposure to viral upper respiratory tract infections in children attending daycare. Treatment and/or prevention of OME using anti-allergic medications should be further examined.