Allergic diseases such as allergic rhinitis represent a global health problem, affecting 10%-25% of the world population. There is clear evidence to support the concept that allergic diseases are influenced by genetic predisposition and environmental exposure. Polymorphisms of candidate genes have been associated with clinical expression of these diseases. However, characterization of these susceptibility markers in discriminating an "allergic individual" from the general population has not yet been achieved, and the value of how this genetic insight leading to recognition of specific subtypes of these disorders still needs to be confirmed. Environmental factors (eg, air pollution and bacterial/viral infection) also play an important role in the development of the diseases. A number of epidemiologic studies have supported the "hygiene hypothesis", which is based on the observations that Th1 responses induced by microbial stimulation can counterbalance allergen-induced Th2 responses. Future studies are needed to identify the key genes or their haplotypes for atopic phenotypes and to investigate the interactions between genetic and environmental factors that influence the complex trait of allergic diseases. This will help us to further understand the etiology of the diseases and develop new avenues for genetically oriented diagnosis and more effective measures of prevention and intervention.