Background Allergic rhinitis and asthma often co-exist and appear to produce a continuum of airway disease, but whether the clinical characteristics of asthma in patients with seasonal rhinitis differ from those of persistent asthma has not been examined.
Objective The aim of this retrospective study was to characterize the clinical features of patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis with concomitant asthma and to compare them with those in patients with persistent asthma.
Methods The patient populations for this study were derived from nine prospective, placebo-controlled planned clinical trials of similar design. Six studies (958 patients) enrolled patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis and concomitant asthma; three (607 patients) involved patients with persistent asthma. In all studies, patients were excluded from oral corticosteroid therapy in the preceding 3 months, and from inhaled corticosteroids in the preceding month.
Results Patients with seasonal rhinitis and asthma had a significantly (P<0.001) higher total asthma symptom score than those with persistent asthma. In particular, cough was three times more severe. The need for β2-agonist as a rescue medication and the ratio of forced expiratory volume in 1 s/forced vital capacity (FVC) were similar in the two groups whereas forced expiratory fraction 25–75%/FVC was significantly (P<0.02) reduced in the persistent asthmatics. Asthma and nasal symptom severity scores were correlated in patients with seasonal rhinitis and asthma (P<0.0001).
Conclusions Patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis and concomitant asthma appear to differ from those with persistent asthma. A prospective study should be designed to discover whether patients with seasonal rhinitis and asthma may represent a distinct nosological entity, ‘allergic airway disease’.