Background Allergic rhinitis (AR) reduces quality of life as a result of impaired psychological well-being and perceived impaired cognitive functioning. Few studies have measured cognitive functions objectively and it remains uncertain whether AR leads to an objective reduction in cognitive functions.
Objective The present study investigated whether AR is associated with a decrement in several aspects of cognitive functioning. Furthermore, the study investigated whether AR patients invest more ‘mental effort’ in order to achieve the same cognitive performances as healthy controls.
Methods Twenty five patients with seasonal allergic rhinitis (SAR) and 26 healthy controls, matched for age, education and sex, were tested on a battery of time-demanding and strenuous objective cognitive tests and subjective questionnaires, both before and after nasal provocation (NP). The cognitive functions assessed were sustained attention, short- and long-term memory and speed of information processing. Mental effort was assessed using visual rating scales.
Results Sustained but not short cognitive performance was impaired in patients after NP. Patients showed an increased effort on short cognitive tests.
Conclusion SAR patients suffer from cognitive performance decrements that can be compensated by additional mental effort for short tasks only.