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Pediatric allergic rhinitis: Factors affecting treatment choice

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March 1, 2005
by Erwin W. Gelfand, MD
Allergic rhinitis is the most prevalent chronic allergic disease in children. Although it is not life-threatening, it can have a significantly detrimental effect on a child's quality of life, and it may exacerbate a number of common comorbidities, including asthma and sinusitis. The Allergic Rhinitis and its Impact on Asthma guidelines, an evidence-based algo-rithm for the treatment of allergic rhinitis, advocate the use of antihistamines for the treatment of the broad spectrum of the disease. However, first-generation antihistamines are associated with a number of adverse events, including central nervous system impairment and anticholinergic and cardiovascular effects. Moreover, these agents have not been rigorously tested in the pediatric population. Nevertheless, first-generation antihistamines remain the most frequently prescribed agents in this class of drugs. This is despite the fact that the second-generation antihistamines are largely free of the undesirable side effects associated with their predecessors and the fact that they have been shown to be effective in relieving allergic rhinitis symptoms in children in a number of large-scale clinical trials. Therefore, when selecting an antihistamine for a child, it would be prudent to consider the full range of antihistamines and to base the selection of a particular drug on its efficacy, onset and duration of action, and safety profile.

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