We conducted a population-based study involving a stratified cluster disproportionate random sample of 2868 adults aged 20 to 74 years selected from five housing estates (Yishun, Toa Payoh, Jurong East, Geylang/Eunos and Bukit Merah). Chronic rhinitis was defined as the usual presence of symptoms of blocked or running nose, apart from colds or the flu, lasting for more than a year. Allergic rhinitis was considered to be present if these symptoms were associated with conjunctivitis or recognisable provocation by commonly known allergens, namely house dust, dogs, cats, birds, pollen, or medicines. The estimated general population prevalence of chronic rhinitis was 10.8% (95% confidence interval (CI) 8.8-12.7). Higher prevalences were noted in males, in younger adults, in Indians and Chinese, in those with higher socio-economic status, and in Toa Payoh, Jurong East and Geylang/Eunos. The prevalence of allergic rhinitis was 5.5% (95% CI 4.5-6.5). The most common 'allergenic' factor in allergic rhinitis was house dust (73%); provocation by birds, cats or dogs (5%), grass or tree pollens (5%), and medicine (5%) was less common but likely to have been under-recognised. Provocation by change in temperature (54%) and early in the morning (64%) was equally frequent in both 'allergic' and 'non-allergic' rhinitis; cigarette smoke, petrol and diesel fumes, food and work environment were less common (4-12%). Allergic rhinitis was highly significantly associated with asthma (13.9% in allergic rhinitis, 4.4% in non-allergic rhinitis, and 2.2% in non-rhinitic subjects).
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