Introduction: Only a few studies have examined the occurrence of atopy and clinically apparent allergic disease and their pharmacological management in elite athletes. The aim of the study was to assess the frequency of allergic rhinitis and the use of antiallergic medication within the subgroups of elite athletes as compared with a representative sample of young adults of the same age.
Methods: A cross-sectional survey was carried out in 2002. All the athletes (N = 494) financially supported by the National Olympic Committee comprised the study group. Of them, 446 (90.3%) filled in a structured questionnaire concerning asthma and allergies, the use of medication, characteristics of sport activities, and smoking habits. A representative sample of Finnish young adults (N = 1504) served as controls.
Results: The endurance athletes reported physician-diagnosed allergic rhinitis more often (36.1%) than other athletes (23.4%) or control subjects (20.2%). The use of antiallergic medication was reported by 33.3, 15.7, and 15.6% of those, respectively. Among both athletes and controls, females reported the use of antiallergic medication more often than males. Only half of those athletes reporting allergic rhinitis had used antiallergic medication during the past year. After adjusting for age and sex, OR (95% CI) for allergic rhinitis and the use of antiallergic medication were 2.24 (1.48–3.39) and 2.79 (1.82–4.28), respectively, in endurance athletes as compared with the controls.
Conclusions: Endurance athletes have physician-diagnosed allergic rhinitis, and they use antiallergic medication more often than athletes in other events or control subjects. Only half of those athletes reporting allergic rhinitis take antiallergic medication. More attention needs to be paid to the optimal management of allergic rhinitis, especially in highly trained endurance athletes.