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Keywords:

  • air pollution;
  • allergic rhinitis;
  • indoor environment;
  • novel allergens;
  • psychologically stressful lifestyle;
  • severe and persistent symptoms

Most of today’s patients suffering from allergic rhinitis (AR) are sensitized to more than one trigger and suffer from persistent and moderate/severe symptoms, which severely impair their quality of life (QOL). The objective of this article was to review the data on the effect of increased air pollution, changes in indoor environment/lifestyle/affluence, exposure to new allergens and psychologically stressful lifestyles, as also to explore their potential in the development of this more ‘aggressive’ form of disease.

Increased fossil fuel-generated air pollution may increase the risk of allergic sensitization, airway responsiveness to allergens, and allergenicity and the bioavailability of airborne allergens. Changes in indoor environment/lifestyle/affluence appear to have led to more time being spent indoors and resulted in perennial exposure to indoor allergens, changes in sensitization patterns, and polysensitization to a variety of novel cross-reacting exotic food and pet allergens. Although evidence suggests an association between psychological stress and increased risk for atopy and allergic disease, further studies are required to demonstrate this unequivocally.

The more persistent and moderate/severe nature of the disease suggests a need for modification of current treatment strategies and advocacy of the use from the outset of agents, which are both efficacious and safe in managing severe and persistent AR symptoms and in improving the QOL of affected individuals.