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Asthma patients at risk from allergic rhinitis

New data published this week in the Primary Care Respiratory Journal (PCRJ) show that allergic rhinitis quadruples the likelihood of asthma patients having poor control over their symptoms, therefore increasing the chance of an asthma attack.

Frequently dismissed by patients and doctors as just a runny nose and itchy eyes, allergic rhinitis poses a serious health risk to the estimated 80% of asthma patients who also suffer from allergic rhinitis.

Despite the high prevalence of asthma and allergic rhinitis, two thirds of asthma patients have not discussed the impact of allergic rhinitis on their asthma with their doctor. Asthma is a life-threatening condition which affects 5.4 million patients in the UK4 and is responsible for the death of nearly 1,200 patients a year in the UK alone.

Professor David Price, Professor of Primary Care Respiratory Medicine at the University of Aberdeen, and one of the study authors, states, “If a patient's asthma is not controlled then they are more likely to have an asthma attack, potentially resulting in hospitalisation.

"Poor control associated with rhinitis and asthma also results in reduced ability to lead a normal life and undertake usual activities. However, if allergic rhinitis is treated appropriately we can potentially improve the control of a patient's asthma and reduce the risk of attacks.”

This study shows that smoking has a similar impact to allergic rhinitis on the poor control of asthma. Smoking is universally accepted as a trigger for asthma attacks and routine checks are in place to identify asthma patients who smoke.

Surprisingly, despite international guidelines recommending a combined approach to managing and treating asthma patients with allergic rhinitis, similar checks for allergic rhinitis are not common practice.

Primary Care Respiratory Journal