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The Proposed Usage of Intranasal Steroids and Antihistamines for Otitis Media with Effusion


Purpose of Review

To examine the role of allergy medications in the treatment of otitis media with effusion (OME), focusing on use of intranasal steroids and antihistamines.

Recent Findings

There has been ongoing controversy regarding the role of allergy in the development of OME. Treatment of OME with medications commonly used for allergic symptomatology has been studied. Proposed treatment options include decongestants, mucolytics, oral steroids, topical steroids, antihistamines, and antibiotics. We begin by evaluating the proposed association between allergy and OME, and then evaluate intranasal steroids and oral antihistamine therapy in the treatment of OME. The role of the adenoid and concurrent nasal symptomatology is also addressed.


The preponderance of data suggests that neither intranasal steroids nor antihistamines improve the long-term clearance of isolated OME and are therefore not recommended. However, data are notably limited with regard to improvement rates in OME in patients specifically with concurrent allergy and/or adenoid hypertrophy. Future studies of medications for OME would ideally incorporate study designs controlling for both allergic rhinitis and adenoid hypertrophy, to better understand the impact of these medications on OME in these subgroups of patients.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jennifer J. Shin.

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Conflict of Interest

RER is a consultant for Roche Genentech, Gossamer Bio, and Syneos Health. DSC has no disclosures. JJS receives textbook royalties from Evidence-Based Otolaryngology, Shin JJ, Randolph GW, editors; New York: Springer, 2008, and from Otolaryngology Prep and Practice. Shin JJ, Cunningham MJ, editors; Plural Publishing, 2013. JJS is also a recipient of the American Academy of the Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Foundation Maureen Hannley grant, the Brigham Care Redesign Program Award, and the Schlager Family Innovations Fund Award.

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Roditi, R.E., Caradonna, D.S. & Shin, J.J. The Proposed Usage of Intranasal Steroids and Antihistamines for Otitis Media with Effusion. Curr Allergy Asthma Rep 19, 47 (2019).

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  • Otitis media with effusion
  • Eustachian tube dysfunction
  • Allergic rhinitis
  • Antihistamines
  • Intranasal steroids
  • Adenoid