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Allergic rhinitis: waving goodbye to the allergic salute

Mark Greener unpicks the more-than-minor irritant behind everything from itchy noses to ruined sleep

Every year, countless patients suffering from allergic rhinitis (AR) greet nurses with the allergic salute, a response to their constantly itchy noses. Indeed, AR is one of the most prevalent diseases among children. But about a third of older adults also suffer AR, which, recent studies suggest, can contribute to another common condition in this age group: sleep problems1. Meanwhile, genetic studies are beginning to uncover the biological basis of the intimate association between asthma and AR2.

A common problem

As every nurse knows, AR is common. A UK study, for example, asked the parents of 894 rural school children aged 5-11 years about AR and the associated symptoms. According to the returned questionnaires, 17.5% of children had conjunctivitis, 15.1% rhinitis and 13.0% rhinoconjunctivitis3. Moreover, between 4.5% and 12.7% of elderly people have asthma, which seems to be more common in middle-aged and older people than younger adults 1,4. In one study, rhinitis affected about 32% of people aged between 54 and 89 years1.

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