Rhinitis: do diagnostic criteria affect the prevalence and treatment?


De-Yun Wang, MD, PhD
Department of Otolaryngology
The National University of Singapore
5 Lower Kent Ridge Road
Singapore 119074


Background: Rhinitis is one of the world's most common health problems. Diagnostic criteria used in community surveys may affect reported prevalence and treatment.

Methods: A proportionately stratified random sample study was performed to investigate the prevalence, comorbidities and management of community-based patients with rhinitis in the tropical urban city of Singapore.

Results: The prevalence of at least one, two, three, or four nasal symptoms on most days during the past year in our study population was 25.5%, 13.1%, 6.5%, and 3.0%, respectively. Based on the definition of ‘rhinitis’ by the International Consensus Report (ICR), the prevalence was 13.1% in Singapore. There was significantly higher prevalence of self-reported allergy, asthma, and common cold/influenza-like illness among the rhinitis group. In the 53% of rhinitis subjects seeking for medical help, 71% visited a primary care physician and 20% an otolaryngologist. Treatments as reported by patients were decongestants (topical or oral) 27%, antibiotics 12%, antihistamines 6%, nasal steroids 3%, surgery 2%, traditional methods 28%, and 22% did not know what medication they had. Subjects considered the effectiveness of treatment unsatisfactory because the majority of them had only partial or no relief with any treatment.

Conclusions: The standardization of the definition of rhinitis in epidemiological studies is of crucial importance, especially when comparing the prevalence between studies. Appropriate patient education by physicians with a good understanding of the nature of rhinitis and the available treatment options (e.g. evidenced-based efficacy, safety, and a good cost-benefit ratio) will maximize patient compliance and treatment outcomes.