Background: Atopy and allergic rhinitis are thought to be increased in prevalence in chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
Methods: To investigate this hypothesis, 51 CFS (CFS), 34 normal (N), 27 allergic rhinitis (AR), and 17 patients with other rheumatologic diseases filled out an Airway Symptom Severity self-report questionnaire to determine the frequencies of nasal, sinus, and chest symptoms, and a Systemic Complaints self-report questionnaire to determine the frequencies of complaints referable to neurologic, rheumatologic, gastrointestinal, and other systems. All subjects received a standard set of allergy skin tests, and were subdivided into those with positive and negative results.
Results: Allergy skin tests were positive in 35% of CFS and 44% of N subjects (difference not significant by Chi2). Significant rhinitis complaints were present in 83% of skin test positive CFS, 76% of skin test negative CFS, 74% of AR, and 23% of N subjects. Systemic Complaints scores were significantly elevated in skin test positive (94%) and negative (94%) CFS groups compared with AR (35%) and N (6%) groups. This score could significantly discriminate between CFS and N subjects.
Conclusions: These data indicate that in this CFS population, 24% had no significant rhinitis complaints, 30% had positive skin tests suggesting the potential for allergic rhinitis complaints, and 46% had nonallergic rhinitis. The mechanism of the nonallergic component may offer insights into the pathogenesis of CFS.