Allergic rhinitis affects about 50 million Americans of all ages. Allergies most often appear first in childhood. Allergic rhinitis is the most common chronic condition in childhood, although it can develop at any age. About 20% of allergic rhinitis cases are due to seasonal allergies, 40% to perennial (chronic) rhinitis, and the rest are mixed.
Allergic rhinitis appears to have a genetic component. People with a parent who has allergic rhinitis have an increased risk of developing allergic rhinitis themselves. The risk increases significantly if both parents have allergic rhinitis.
Home or workplace environments can increase the risk for exposure to allergens (mold spores, dust mites, animal dander) associated with allergic rhinitis.
Exclusively breastfeeding for the first 4 months of life can help prevent or delay wheezing and atopic dermatitis in high-risk infants. Some types of infant formulas that are made without cow's milk may possibly help prevent allergies. (There is no evidence that soy-based formulas are helpful.) Solid foods should not be introduced until an infant is 4 - 6 months old. Alterations in a mother's diet do not appear to affect her baby's risk for developing allergies.
Review Date: 05/03/2011
Reviewed By: Harvey Simon, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Physician, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.