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Allergic Rhinitis and Pharmacological Management in Elite Athletes


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: May 2005 - Volume 37 - Issue 5 - p 707-711
doi: 10.1249/01.MSS.0000162689.69517.60
Clinical Sciences: Clinical Investigations

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.

1Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, FINLAND; 2Käpylä Rehabilitation Centre, Helsinki, FINLAND; 3National Public Health Institute, Helsinki, FINLAND; 4Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki, Helsinki, FINLAND; and 5Hospital for Children and Adolescents, Helsinki University Central Hospital, Helsinki, FINLAND

Address for correspondence: Antti Alaranta, M.Sc. (Pharm), Tammelankatu 8 B 10, FIN-04430 Järvenpää, Finland; E-mail:

Submitted for publication September 2004.

Accepted for publication December 2004.

The study was supported by Finnish National Olympic Committee, Finnish Ministry of Education, and Finnish Sports Research Foundation.

©2005The American College of Sports Medicine