George Krucik, MD, MBA
Bloating and hot ears are usually a sign of some sort of food intolerance, and the severity of the symptoms can usually help determine whether or not you have an actual allergy. Many people misconstrue the allergy-like symptoms they might experience after eating certain foods as a serious allergy when it’s actually just a mild intolerance. Food intolerance is not as severe as an outright allergy, and those with an intolerance can sometimes still enjoy the foods they are intolerant to on occasion.
Food Allergy vs. Food Intolerance
If you experience warm, red ears or a tingling sensation on your lips, throat or mouth immediately after ingesting a substance, it's likely an allergy. An allergy will trigger an immune system reaction in your body that affects a range of organs, not just your digestive tract. This means you can have both tingling in your ears or lips, and severe diarrhea and vomiting. Symptoms of a food intolerance are usually limited to gastrointestinal problems and come on gradually.
One of the most common food-related causes of bloating is lactose intolerance. If you have lactose intolerance, that means you are lacking lactase, the enzyme that helps your body process lactose. Because of this, you can't fully digest diary products and may experience mild symptoms like bloating and gas. In more serious cases, those with lactose intolerance will experience severe abdominal cramps and diarrhea. Many people who have this intolerance can eat dairy in small doses or take a pill like Lactaid to prevent symptoms from occurring.
Celiac disease is like an allergy because it involves an immune system reaction in your intestines, but the symptoms are often mild like an intolerance. When gluten is ingested by someone with celiac disease, an immune system reaction is triggered in the small intestines. This causes damage to the inner surface of the intestines and prevents essential nutrients from being absorbed. The main symptoms of this disease are bloating and abdominal pain, but it can also cause diarrhea and a myriad of other symptoms involving muscles, bones and skin. It's not uncommon to have hot, itchy skin or rashes if you have this disease, so hot ears could be a sign.
If You Think You Have an Allergy
Hot, red ears are a better indicator of an allergy than gastrointestinal problems like bloating. Hot, itchy or tingling ears often occur immediately after eating a substance and can be followed by other allergy symptoms like hives, swelling or tingling elsewhere. Allergic reactions move fast, and the tiniest contact can cause a reaction. If you notice that your ears are getting extremely hot and think you could be suffering from an allergic reaction, it's important to contact a doctor immediately. In some cases, an allergy can cause anaphylaxis, which is characterized by difficulty breathing and dangerously low blood pressure. This can be life-threatening.