There is compelling evidence of a close relationship between the upper and lower airways in asthma and rhinitis. Rhinitis is present in the majority of patients with asthma, and a significant minority of patients with rhinitis have concomitant asthma. Similarities between the two conditions occur in the nature of the inflammation present in the target tissues. A common initiating step in the inflammatory process of allergic airways disease is the presence of immunoglobulin E providing an adaptor molecule between the offending allergen and inflammatory cell activation and mediator release. Differences in the two conditions arise largely from the structural differences between the nose and the lungs. In an asthmatic, concomitant allergic rhinitis increases healthcare costs and further impairs quality of life. The presence of rhinitis should always be investigated in children and young adults with asthma. Subjects with allergic rhinitis have an increased risk of developing asthma and may form a suitable population for secondary intervention to interrupt the 'allergic march'.