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Keywords:

  • allergen;
  • allergic;
  • atopic;
  • hay fever;
  • immunotherapy;
  • nasal;
  • rhinitis;
  • rhinoscopy;
  • skin test

Abstract

Allergic rhinitis is a costly disease associated with significant morbidity. It impacts the quality of life of millions of individuals, particularly in industrialized nations, and it is on the rise. Lost productivity and total healthcare expenditure exceeds several billion dollars annually in the United States, with an estimate of >$6 billion spent on prescription medications alone. It is also associated with asthma and other atopic conditions, sinusitis, otitis media, and sleep apnea. Primary care physicians should be well adept at recognizing and initiating empiric first-line therapy for chronic rhinitis. Allergen avoidance, topical nasal steroids, and antihistamines may be sufficient for some patients. In most cases, referral to a board-certified allergy specialist for skin testing and targeted management is indicated. It is essential to make sure that patients abstain from using antihistamines at least 1 week prior to reporting to the allergist for skin testing in order to avoid false-negative results. Traditional subcutaneous allergen immunotherapy, when performed by an experienced allergist, affords relief in >75% of cases. The growing armament of treatment options for refractory allergic rhinitis includes oral and sublingual immunotherapy, recombinant allergens, conjugated DNA vaccines, and anti–immunoglobulin E monoclonal antibody. Mt Sinai J Med 78:634–644, 2011.© 2011 Mount Sinai School of Medicine