Prevalence of allergic rhinitis in the United States

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      The study objective was to examine the current national prevalence of allergic rhinitis by gender, age, geographic region, population density (urban/rural), and household income. A self-administered questionnaire was sent to 15,000 households representative of the U.S. population in respect to these factors. The household member who knew the most about the family's health status and health history in the previous 12 months was asked to estimate the number of days during which household members had experienced sneezing, runny nose, stuffy nose or head, itchy eyes, or watery eyes. They were also asked about physician diagnosis of hay fever, rhinitis, persistent stuffy nose or head, or allergies involving the eyes, nose, or throat. The 9946 households responding (66.3%) represented 22,285 persons, 8394 of whom had experienced the symptoms described. In a follow-up questionnaire sent to a balanced sample of 1450 responders (>90% white, slightly more females than males), subjects were asked to indicate which of the following best described their symptoms: a common cold; a seasonal allergy (i.e., hay fever); an allergy I have all the time; an allergy only when exposed to triggers (i.e., dust, pollution); or sinus problems. Of the 1065 subjects (73.4%) responding, 31.5% reported ≥7 days of nasal/ocular symptoms, and 17.7% reported ≥31 days of symptoms. Physician-diagnosed hay fever was reported by 8.2% and allergic rhinitis (seasonal plus perennial) by 14.2%. Prevalence was highest among those age 18 to 34 years and 35 to 49 years, decreasing after age 50 years. No major trends were evident with regard to other variables studied. Extrapolation based on 1993 census data suggests that at least 35.9 million persons have symptoms associated with allergic rhinitis and up to 79.5 million persons experience ≥7 days of nasal/ocular symptoms yearly.

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