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Keywords:

  • allergic rhinitis;
  • ear;
  • otitis media with effusion

To cite this article: Lack G, Caulfield H, Penagos M. The link between otitis media with effusion and allergy: a potential role for intranasal corticosteroids. Pediatr Allergy Immunol 2011; 22: 258–266.

Abstract

We reviewed the evidence linking otitis media with effusion (OME) and atopy, with the goal of clarifying the possible role of intranasal corticosteroids (INSs) in OME treatment. In August 2009, the MEDLINE database was searched for primary studies on OME epidemiology, pathophysiology, and treatment. Relevant clinical guidelines were obtained. Interpreting OME research is complicated by variable disease definitions, patient populations, methodologies, and outcomes assessments, along with the possibility of spontaneous resolution. However, evidence links OME with atopic conditions including allergic rhinitis; observed prevalence of allergic rhinitis in patients with chronic or recurrent OME ranges from 24% to 89%. Such findings have prompted evaluations of common allergy medications for OME treatment. While short-term use of INSs alone or combined with antibiotics has shown benefit in some studies, more prolonged treatment protocols and long-term clinical outcomes will require critical assessment. Evidence suggesting epidemiologic and pathophysiologic links between allergy and OME has prompted investigation into a potential role for INSs in OME management, with promising initial results. Benefits of considering medical treatment in patients with OME prior to surgery include both the potential reductions in allergic inflammation and the naturally occurring spontaneous resolution of OME in these patients.