Olfaction in allergic rhinitis: A systematic review

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2015 Dec;136(6):1460-1470. doi: 10.1016/j.jaci.2015.08.003. Epub 2015 Sep 26.


Olfactory dysfunction is a key symptom in patients with allergic rhinitis (AR). Despite the implications for quality of life, relatively few articles have tested olfactory function in their investigations. The current systematic review aimed to investigate the following 2 questions: (1) What does AR do to human olfaction? (2) How effective is the treatment of AR in restoring the sense of smell? A comprehensive literature search was performed, and human studies of any design were included. A total of 420 articles were identified, and 36 articles were considered relevant. Data indicate that the frequency of olfactory dysfunction increases with the duration of the disorder, and most studies report a frequency in the range of 20% to 40%. Although olfactory dysfunction does not appear to be very severe in patients with AR, its presence seems to increase with the severity of the disease. There is very limited evidence that antihistamines improve olfactory function. In addition, there is limited evidence that topical steroids improve the sense of smell, especially in patients with seasonal AR. This is also the case for specific immunotherapy. However, many questions remain unanswered because randomized controlled trials are infrequent and only a few studies rely on quantitative measurement of olfactory function.

Keywords: Allergy; anosmia; hyposmia; olfaction; rhinitis; smell.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Rhinitis, Allergic / drug therapy
  • Rhinitis, Allergic / physiopathology*
  • Rhinitis, Allergic / surgery
  • Rhinitis, Allergic / therapy
  • Smell* / drug effects