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Allergic rhinitis (AR), an inflammatory disease of the upper airways, is one of the most common problems seen in outpatient practice. Although sometimes trivialized by patients and physicians, AR is a major source of morbidity. According to the National Health Interview Survey, 18.6 million adults and 6.7 children were diagnosed with hay fever in 2004 (www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/allergies.htm), and the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey showed that there were 14 million physician office visits for AR that year (www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/allergies.htm). Exact prevalence figures for AR are difficult to determine. A recent study estimated that it affects 23% of the population of Western Europe (1), and data from the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) showed that about 55% of all U.S. citizens test positive to at least 1 allergen, a significant increase over the prevalence in the previous survey (2).
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