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Allergy Drugs More Harmful Than Helpful for Chronic Ear Inflammation

Children who have persistent fluid in the middle ear, a condition called otitis media with effusion, are more likely to be harmed than helped by antihistamines and decongestants, a new review of studies has found.//

The drugs are no better than placebo in alleviating symptoms or avoiding complications of OME and expose children to a significant risk of drug-related side effects.

"This review finds no benefit for any of the short- or long-term outcomes, including resolution of the fluid, hearing problems or the necessity of additional referral to specialists,' concluded review authors led by Glenn Griffin, M.D., of Quinte West Medical Centre in Ontario, Canada. "However, treated study subjects experienced 11 percent more side effects than untreated subjects."

The review appears in the current issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of The Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates research in all aspects of health care. Systematic reviews draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing trials on a topic.

Otitis media with effusion is one of the most common conditions affecting young children, and about nine of 10 children will have OME at least once before school age. While OME usually is not painful, the presence of fluid in the middle ear can cause problems with hearing and balance.

Antihistamines and decongestants, commonly used to treat symptoms of allergies and colds, are sometimes prescribed for OME. According to the review authors, these drugs theoretically could alleviate congestion and decrease obstruction of the Eustachian tube, allowing drainage of fluid.

The reviewers pooled the results of 15 randomized controlled trials involving 1,516 children that compared antihistamines, decongestants or the combination to a placebo for otitis media with effusion.

The findings were consiste
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