Increased prevalence of perennial allergic rhinitis in patients with obstructive sleep apnea

Respiration. 2004 Mar-Apr;71(2):138-43. doi: 10.1159/000076674.


Background: Impaired nasal breathing is a risk factor for obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS).

Objectives: The aim of this study was to determine whether atopy to perennial allergens and existence of perennial allergic rhinitis was a risk factor for OSAS.

Methods: In a case-control study, we compared the proportions of OSAS patients with atopy to perennial allergens and perennial allergic rhinitis to the proportions in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Seventy-two OSAS patients (mean age 60.7 years; 79.4% male) and 44 COPD patients (mean age 63.6 years; 88.6% male) were selected from a hospital outpatients' clinic in Switzerland. All patients completed a respiratory symptom questionnaire, performed spirometry and had a skin prick test for atopy.

Results: OSAS patients were significantly heavier than COPD patients (BMI 32.4 +/- (SD) 6.6 vs. 29.2 +/- 6.6 kg/m2, p = 0.04) and had a better lung function than COPD patients (FEV1% predicted 91.3 +/- 19.2 vs. 51.6 +/- 18.9%, p < 0.001). Patients with OSAS were more likely to be sensitized to perennial allergens such as house dust mite (23.6 vs. 4.5%, p = 0.009) and dog (18 vs. 4.5%, p = 0.04) than the COPD patients. Perennial allergic rhinitis (having nose problems [nasal obstruction and/or runny nose and/or sneezing] all year and being atopic to at least one perennial allergen) was reported in 11% of OSAS patients but in only 2.3% of COPD patients (p = 0.15).

Conclusion: We conclude that subjects with OSAS may have an increased risk of being allergic to perennial allergens and suffer from perennial rhinitis. Awareness of this risk may have important consideration in the clinical situation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Intranasal
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Comorbidity
  • Continuous Positive Airway Pressure
  • Female
  • Forced Expiratory Volume
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nasal Obstruction / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Perennial / drug therapy
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Perennial / epidemiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sleep Apnea, Obstructive / epidemiology*
  • Steroids / administration & dosage
  • Switzerland / epidemiology


  • Steroids