Background The aim of our study was to assess the prevalence of rhinitis, sneezing, runny or blocked nose apart from colds in a pre-school children population and to evaluate the risk factors and relationship with allergic diseases and sensitization.
Methods Eighteen nursery schools were randomly selected. The International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood (ISAAC) written questionnaire (WQ) was distributed and filled by parents of pre-school children (3–5 years). The allergic sensitization to common aeroallergens and foods was evaluated by skin prick test (SPT). χ2 tests were used to compare proportions between rhinitic and non-rhinitic children.
Results One thousand four hundred and two (92%) valuable questionnaires were returned. Prevalence of rhinitis in the last 12 months was 16.8%. Rhinitic children compared to non-rhinitic children presented a significant increase of diagnosed asthma (20.8% vs. 6.2%, P<0.001), lifetime wheezing (43.2% vs. 21.6%, P<0.001), wheezing in the last 12 months (25.0% vs. 9.4%, P<0.001), atopic dermatitis (22.9% vs. 13.9%, P<0.001) and allergic sensitization (29.9% vs. 13.7%, P<0.001). Sensitization to grass pollen and house dust mites were significant risk factors for rhinitis (P<0.01). A family history of atopy, having pets at home, male gender and greater age were significant risk factors for rhinitis, but not smoking exposure, sharing a bedroom or breastfeeding.
Conclusions In pre-school children rhinitis has a strong association with wheezing symptoms, asthma and atopic dermatitis. Allergic sensitization is a risk factor for rhinitis and should be evaluated even in pre-school children.