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Prevalence, classification and perception of allergic and nonallergic rhinitis in Belgium


Dr Claus Bachert
Upper Airway Research Laboratory
Department of Otorhinolaryngology
University Hospital
De Pintelaan 185
B-9000 Ghent


Background:  Allergic rhinitis (AR) and noninfectious, nonallergic rhinitis (NINA) are common disorders, which may prompt patients to seek medical help.

Methods:  We performed a survey in a representative sample of the Belgian population (n = 4959) with an overall prevalence of self-declared recent rhinitis symptoms of 39.3%. Detailed information on patients having experienced nasal symptoms over the past year was then obtained from a random sample of respondents (n = 743).

Results:  The adjusted prevalence was 29.8% for AR and 9.6% for NINA, respectively. According to the ARIA classification, there was significantly more ‘persistent’ symptomatology in the AR group (40.8%) than in NINA (23.5%) (P < 0.001), and more ‘moderate/severe’ symptom intensity in AR (75.4%) than in NINA (53.1%) (P < 0.001). Allergic rhinitis patients suffered from a greater number of symptoms than NINA patients (P < 0.001). Asthma, skin and food allergy as co-morbidities were all found to be significantly more prevalent in the AR vs the NINA group (P < 0.05 for all). The percentage of consulting patients (total: 66.8%), who subjectively perceived their rhinitis as moderate/severe, was 94.0%, whereas 75.6% of these patients were classified accordingly based on ARIA criteria.

Conclusions:  We found a high prevalence of self-declared rhinitis symptoms in the Belgian population, AR being about three times more prevalent than NINA. In addition, AR patients suffered from a greater number of symptoms and displayed a more ‘persistent’ and ‘moderate–severe’ ARIA profile than NINA. About 75% of patients seeking medical help suffer from ‘moderate to severe’ forms of rhinitis.