In this review we will examine evidence indicating that allergic inflammation is present in middle ear effusion. We will also discuss several of the problems relating to the diagnosis of allergy and allergic sensitization, and why anti-allergy treatments have been unsuccessful. This will provide a rationale for future studies in the field linking allergic inflammation with otitis media with effusion.
Recent findings in atopic children demonstrated higher levels of eosinophils, T lymphocytes, and interleukin-4+ and interleukin-5+ cells compared with nonatopic patients. T-helper 2 cells and cytokines were found not only in middle ear effusions in atopic children but also in specimens from adenoid tissue. This demonstrates a strong correlation between allergic reaction in the middle ear and the upper airway.
In summary, as our knowledge of the allergic and nonallergic influences on inflammation broadens, the paradigms of treatment may be altered. The accumulating experimental and clinical data suggest that it may be wiser to screen every child with otitis media with effusion for allergic rhinitis and ultimately to manage those with allergic inflammation differently to nonatopic individuals with otitis media with effusion.