Allergic rhinoconjunctivitis in elite athletes: optimal management for quality of life and performance

Sports Med. 2003;33(6):401-6. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200333060-00002.


Allergic rhinoconjunctivitis is a common condition with a peak incidence in the age range of the majority of elite athletes. The condition has been shown to have a significant impact on the quality of life of those affected and poses particular challenges when present in the elite athlete. When an athlete is looking for exceptional performance at events such as the Olympic Games, any factor which affects quality of life by interfering with sleep, decreasing the ability to concentrate, or reducing peak physical fitness, may have a significant impact on the ability to perform at one's best. Optimal management begins with correct diagnosis and identification of triggering factors. There are a number of therapeutic options available to the treating physician. When formulating a management plan for the elite athlete, the physician must consider "doping" rules and the possible effect of medication on athletic performance. Medication choices include the newer, non-sedating antihistamines, used either orally or topically, and the prophylactic use of intranasal corticosteroids. When allergic conjunctivitis is the principal problem, the newer, topical antihistamines are highly effective and have a rapid onset of action. Since avoidance strategies are rarely practical for the athlete, consideration should be given to strategies such as immunotherapy, where long-term benefit is possible.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Administration, Intranasal
  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / administration & dosage
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Chronic Disease
  • Conjunctivitis, Allergic / complications
  • Conjunctivitis, Allergic / drug therapy*
  • Histamine H1 Antagonists / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Immunotherapy / methods
  • Ipratropium / therapeutic use
  • Nasal Decongestants / therapeutic use
  • Quality of Life*
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Perennial / complications
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Perennial / drug therapy*
  • Sports Medicine / methods*
  • Task Performance and Analysis*


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Anti-Asthmatic Agents
  • Histamine H1 Antagonists
  • Nasal Decongestants
  • Ipratropium