Background: There is increasing interest in the possibility that rhinitis and asthma are intricately interlinked. The aim of this baseline audit was to investigate the prevalence and characteristics of rhinitis symptoms in a large-scale UK primary care-based survey of patients with asthma.
Methods: A questionnaire about the presence/absence and type of nasal symptoms, seasonal variations, and trigger factors was developed and piloted. This was then distributed among approximately 10,500 patients with clinician-diagnosed asthma via a national database of practice nurses.
Results: We achieved a response from 7,129 patients (68%). Of these, 76% (n=5,420) had symptoms indicative of rhinitis as shown by the presence of more than one of the following: nasal blockage; runny nose; sneezing; and itchy eyes, ears or palate. 58% reported predominantly seasonal symptoms and 42% predominantly perennial symptoms. Sneezing was reported in a significantly greater proportion of patients with seasonal (66%) than perennial (58%) symptoms, together with itchy eyes/ears/palate (seasonal 60%, perennial 48%) and rhinorrhoea (56%, 51%) (all p< or =0.001). Symptoms of nasal blockage were more commonly reported in the group with perennial symptoms (perennial 61%, seasonal 53%) (p<0.001).
Conclusions: In this large national baseline survey, 76% of patients with asthma reported symptoms indicative of rhinitis. In view of the very high prevalence of rhinitis among people with asthma, we suggest that the diagnosis of rhinitis is considered in all those with asthma.