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Occupational rhinitis

Douglas R Lotz, MD
Raymond G Slavin, MD, MS
Section Editor
Jonathan Corren, MD
Deputy Editor
Anna M Feldweg, MD


Occupational rhinitis (OR) may be defined as "an inflammatory condition of the nose, which is characterized by intermittent or persistent symptoms (ie, nasal congestion, sneezing, rhinorrhea, itching) and/or variable nasal airflow limitation and/or hypersecretion, due to causes and conditions attributable to a particular work environment and not to stimuli encountered outside of the workplace" [1]. OR is different from work-exacerbated rhinitis (WER), which is preexisting or concurrent (allergic or nonallergic) rhinitis that is worsened by, but not caused by, workplace exposures. OR can develop in response to allergens, inhaled irritants, or corrosive gases.

OR may have a profound effect on the worker, resulting in performance deficits, reduced productivity, and psychosocial problems. OR often coexists with occupational asthma (OA).

The epidemiology, pathophysiology, clinical manifestations, diagnosis, and management of OR will be discussed here. OA is reviewed separately. (See "Occupational asthma: Definitions, epidemiology, causes, and risk factors" and "Occupational asthma: Clinical features and diagnosis" and "Occupational asthma: Pathogenesis".)


Occupational allergic diseases are common and appear to be increasing, with an estimated worldwide prevalence of 5 to 15 percent [2,3]. The prevalence of occupational rhinitis (OR) specifically is not precisely known, although it appears to be two to three times more prevalent than occupational asthma (OA) [4,5]. Prevalence estimates of OR vary with the methods used for diagnosis (questionnaire, objective evaluation), the occupation studied, and the geographic area in question (which may have distinctive industries).

The following factors complicate prevalence studies of OR:

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Literature review current through: Oct 2017. | This topic last updated: Sep 01, 2016.
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