Asthma is a chronic, inflammatory condition of the airways
characterized by airway hyper responsiveness and episodic, reversible,
respiratory symptoms (Holgate et al, 2006).
Allergic rhinitis (AR) is clinically defined as a
symptomatic disorder of the nose induced after allergen exposure. Symptoms of
allergic rhinitis are reversible either spontaneously or following treatment.
AR is associated with impairments in patients functioning in day-to-day life
affecting sleep and emotions, as well as impairment in activities and social
functioning (Skoner, 2001).
Asthma is estimated to affect approximately 4–11% of the
general population while AR is estimated to affect 10–30%. Asthma and AR are
often co-morbid diseases to such an extent that the prevalence of AR among
asthmatic patients is usually over 50%. In addition to the symptomatic burden
of AR in patients with asthma, AR can complicate asthma management and result in
poorer asthma outcomes. As a result, asthma-related medical resource usage may
increase in patients with asthma and concomitant AR compared to those with
asthma alone (Braido et al, 2007). Therefore, an optimal management of rhinitis
may improve coexisting asthma and vice versa; thus a combined diagnostic and
treatment strategy should be used to approach these two conditions.
Different studies, such as the European Community
Respiratory Health Survey (ECRHS) and the International Study of Asthma and Allergies
in Childhood (ISAAC), have reported several data on the prevalence of both
allergic asthma and rhinitis althought comparisons are difficult due to the
technical characteristics of the studies. Nevertheless, the epidemiology of
allergic disorders has recently gained great attention as the prevalence of
asthma is on a steady increase (Holgate et al, 2006). Changes in diagnostic
sensitivity and in reporting attitude can only partially explain these
increasing trends, which have been attributedchanges in exposure to environmental risk factors and to
the so-called western lifestyle (Kim et al, 2003).
In addition to the economic burden of asthma, which is
considerable, there are physical, emotional, and social effects, leading to a
reduced quality of life (QoL) of both patients and their families. For most
asthmatic patients, the disease has a deep negative impact on daily life
(Baiardini et al, 2006).
Understanding asthmatic patients needs and behaviours is
fundamental for developing an asthma-related healthcare policy.