Background: Allergic rhinitis (AR) is the most common atopic disorder, affecting about 20% of the general population. Nevertheless, the real impact of disease is often underestimated. Recent epidemiological studies have demonstrated that the prevalence of rhinitis in Italy has increased in the 1990s among children and adults. Aim: The aim of the study was to evaluate the prevalence of AR and to measure comorbidity of AR and other atopic disorders in a random group of adolescents living in L'Aquila area. Methods: The standardised SIDRIA (Italian Studies on Respiratory Disorders in Children and the Environment) questionnaire was given to 1100 school-children aged 13-14 years between January-March 2004. Results: The prevalence of AR was 18,3%. A larger percentage of subjects (40,3%) reported nasal symptoms when exposed to allergens. The association between reported nasal symptoms and AR was more significant for pollen than dust mite exposures. About 31,5% of asthmatics reported AR. The prevalence was higher between children with current asthma-like symptoms. The relationship between AR and asthma appear to be stronger when compared subjects with nasal symptoms after exposure to allergens to subjects with asthmatic symptoms. Hay-fever was a significant risk factor for asthma, whereas current wheezing was positively associated with current rhinitis and with AR. Hay fever was the most commonly lifetime atopic disease, followed by eczema (8,7%) and then asthma (6,7%). Similarly, the interrelation between reported current symptoms, demonstrated that symptoms of rhinoconjunctivitis are the most common and that about 40% with this disease reported symptoms of other atopic diseases. Conclusion: Our data confirm the high prevalence of AR among adolescents in L'Aquila area and the utility of international and regional standardised prevalence comparisons to provide a picture of patterns of allergic diseases and to test the hypothesis regarding the cause of the increase of such disease.
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