The aim of this study is to formulate criteria for the definition of allergic rhinitis. Other studies have sought to develop scoring systems to categorize the severity of allergic rhinitis symptoms but it was never used for the formulation of diagnostic criteria. These other scoring systems were arbitrarily chosen and were not derived by any statistical analysis. To date, a study of this kind has not been performed.
The hypothesis of this study is that it is possible to formulate criteria for the definition of allergic rhinitis. This is the first study to systematically examine and evaluate the relative importance of symptoms, signs and investigative tests in allergic rhinitis. We sought to statistically rank, from the most to the least important, the multiplicity of symptoms, signs and test results.
Forty-seven allergic rhinitis and 23 normal subjects were evaluated with a detailed questionnaire and history, physical examination, serum total immunoglobulin E, skin prick tests and serum enzyme allergosorbent tests (EAST).
Statistical ranking of variables indicated rhinitis symptoms (nasal, ocular and oronasal) were the most commonly occurring, followed by a history of allergen provocation, then serum total IgE, positive skin prick tests and positive EAST's to house dust mite, perennial rye and bermuda/couch grass. Throat symptoms ranked even lower whilst EAST's to cat epithelia, plantain and cockroach were the least important. Not all symptoms, signs and tests evaluated proved to be statistically significant when compared to a control group; this included symtoms and signs which had been considered historically to be traditionally associated with allergic rhinitis, e.g. sore throat and bleeding nose.
In performing statistical analyses, we were able to rank from most to least important, the multiplicity of symptoms signs and test results. The most important symptoms and signs were identified for the first time, even though some of these were not included in our original selection criteria for defining the disease cohort i.e. sniffing, postnasal drip, oedematous nasal mucosa, impaired sense of smell, mouth breathing, itchy nose and many of the specific provocation factors.