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Allergy Asthma Proc. 2013 Jul-Aug;34(4):301-11. doi: 10.2500/aap.2013.34.3676.

Pharmacotherapeutic strategies for allergic rhinitis: matching treatment to symptoms, disease progression, and associated conditions.

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  • 1Allergy & Asthma Medical Group & Research Center, San Diego, CA 92123, USA.


The selection of specific pharmacotherapy for patients with allergic rhinitis (AR) depends on several factors, including age, most prominent symptoms, symptom severity, patient preference, cost, and comorbid conditions. Guidelines focus on immediate symptoms and monotherapy. However, given the often variable course of disease, understanding symptom patterns, and recommending intervention transitions among agents and classes (and from alternative single and combination medications) can aid in optimization of treatment. This review focuses on considerations for combination therapy for AR, particularly in the context of step-up and step-down treatment, and individual symptoms and comorbidities that may benefit from such treatment (e.g., asthma). Relevant clinical studies for treatment of AR and of AR with comorbid asthma and information on treatment guidelines were identified through MEDLINE searches from inception through 2012. Search terms and phrases included "allergic rhinitis," "asthma," "treatment guidelines," and "stepwise treatment." Stepped methodology is individualized according to patient-specific factors and severity of disease. A possible step-up/step-down approach might move through five stages: step 1, for mild intermittent symptoms, intranasal or oral antihistamine, as needed; step 2, daily intranasal antihistamine (an oral antihistamine or leukotriene antagonist may be considered as an alternative); step 3, daily intranasal corticosteroids (INS); step 4, combination INS and intranasal antihistamines; step 5, further add-on therapy options in severe cases. A step-up/step-down approach to AR pharmacotherapy based on patient response may hold the potential for optimal control of AR symptoms while minimizing side effects and cost of treatment.

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