Information is intended for healthcare professionals

This management algorithm was developed by a multidisciplinary expert panel: Scadding et al with the support of an educational grant from Mylan. See end of algorithm for full disclaimer.


In this algorithm


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One airway disease

  • Allergic rhinitis (AR) is a common comorbidity in >80% of patients with asthma but is frequently undertreated and underdiagnosed3,7
  • AR is an independent risk factor for developing asthma, and increases the risk of a patient’s asthma being poorly controlled1
  • Treating AR can improve patient’s asthma symptoms and reduce the odds of asthma-related emergency department visits and hospitalisations7
  • Respiratory symptoms thought to be caused by asthma (coughing, wheezing, and breathlessness) may sometimes be solely caused by AR.

Top tips for patients

Seasonal AR

  • Allergens are usually tree pollen (spring), grass pollen (end of spring/beginning of summer), or weeds (early spring to late autumn)3
  • Allergen avoidance strategies can help reduce symptoms, such as minimising outdoor activity, wearing wraparound sunglasses, shutting windows in cars and buildings, using nasal filters, avoiding drying clothes outside when the pollen count is high, and showering and washing hair after pollen exposure3,4
  • Patients should start using treatment two weeks before they normally experience symptoms and stop at the end of the season.4
  • The Met Office pollen forecast (for the UK) can help with timings of when there is high to very high pollen count (see useful resources)
  • Pollen food syndrome affects some people with hay fever. Symptoms of itching and/or swelling of the lips, tongue, and mouth and/or throat may be experienced on eating some fruits, vegetables, or nuts, such as apples, because of the cross-reactivity between these foods and pollens, such as birch tree pollen.3,8 

Non-pharmacological interventions

  • Nasal douching with saline may help reduce the severity of symptoms3,4,9
  • Allergen barrier balms that are applied around the nostrils may reduce the amount of pollen entering the airways and may reduce symptoms.4,10


  • Explain that treatment will be trialled for two to four weeks to enable diagnosis and assess its effectiveness, but a change in medication or referral may be required on review3
  • Advise patients when to expect improvement in symptoms:
    • intranasal corticosteroids can take 6–8 hours to begin working and around two weeks to achieve maximal effect1,3,4
    • intranasal antihistamines (AH) (azelastine hydrochloride) have a fast onset of action (15 minutes)3,4
    • combination azelastine hydrochloride and fluticasone propionate spray clinically improves symptoms days earlier than monotherapy2,4,11
  • Explain that treatment is only effective if taken every day as directed
  • Teach patients how to use nasal sprays correctly (see useful resources) and check their technique at each review
    • treatment failure is often a result of incorrect technique1,3
  • Warn patients about possible side effects – some patients may experience a bitter taste with azelastine, and epistaxis is a possibility with intranasal steroids.

Considerations for healthcare professionals


  • Questions about AR symptoms should be phrased according to the patient’s level of understanding and linguistic ability
  • Check which medicines patients have tried previously and whether any were effective4
  • Remember to check patients with AR for asthma symptoms.


  • Patients should not use sedating oral AH, for example, chlorphenamine, hydroxyzine, and promethazine2,4
  • Intranasal AH are more effective at treating AR symptoms than oral AH2,4
  • Intranasal steroids are more effective than intranasal AH and also reduce nasal congestion2,4
  • Intranasal steroids with the lowest systemic bioavailability should be used to reduce the risk of systemic effects (mometasone furoate, fluticasone furoate, and fluticasone propionate)1,4
  • Combination therapy using an intranasal steroid and intranasal AH spray is more effective than monotherapy2,4
  • Concordance with treatment may be improved by using a simple treatment regimen, such as once-daily treatments or a single device3,4
  • In exceptional circumstances (for example, the patient’s wedding day), it may be appropriate to use a short course of oral prednisolone[C] to rapidly alleviate symptoms3
  • Injectable steroids (for example, triamcinolone acetonide) should not be used for AR because of a poor risk–benefit profile.


  • A visual analogue scale is a simple scoring system to measure AR symptoms (0 to 10) and show improvement, which can help improve patient concordance with treatment and achieve optimum control2
  • Where possible, patients can use the MASK–air app to record daily symptoms, enabling a simple treatment decision after two to four weeks trial of treatment based on changes to the patient’s score2
  • The two to four week review can be carried out by phone, email, or video consultation2
  • Check patient’s asthma symptoms at review. If they improve with successful AR treatment, asthma medications might need stepping down and monitoring.3,4


  • Mometasone is licensed for use in children ≥3 years3
  • Combination intranasal steroid and intranasal antihistamine treatment is not licensed in children under 12 years.11 

[C] Not currently recommended due to COVID-19.

Useful resources


  1. Scadding G, Walker S. Poor asthma control? – then look up the nose. The importance of co-morbid rhinitis in patients with asthma. Prim Care Respir J 2012; 21 (2): 222–228. 
  2. Bousquet J, Schunemann HJ, Hellings PW et al. MACVIA clinical decision algorithm in adolescents and adults with allergic rhinitis. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2016138 (2): 367–374.
  3. NICE. CKS: Allergic rhinitis. NICE, 2018. Available at: 
  4. Scadding GK, Kariyawasam HH, Scadding G et al. BSACI guideline for the diagnosis and management of allergic and non-allergic rhinitis (Revised Edition 2017; First Edition 2007). Clin Exp Allergy 2017; 47 (7): 856–889. 
  5. Brozek JL, Bousquet J, Agache I et al. Allergic Rhinitis and its Impact on Asthma (ARIA) guidelines—2016 revision. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2016; 140 (4): 950–958.
  6. Del Cuvillo A, Santos V, Montoro J et al. Allergic rhinitis severity can be assessed using a visual analogue scale in mild, moderate and severe. Rhinology 2017; 55 (1): 34–38.
  7. Egan M, Bunyavanich S. Allergic rhinitis: the “Ghost Diagnosis” in patients with asthma. Asthma Research and Practice 2015; 1: 8.
  8. Allergy UK. Your quick guide to… Oral allergy syndrome or pollen-food syndrome. Kent: Allergy UK, 2017. Available at:
  9. Head K, Snidvongs K, Glew S et al. Saline irrigation for allergic rhinitis. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2018; (6): CD012597.
  10. Allergy UK. The impact of hay fever: a survey by Allergy UK (Part 2). Kent: Allergy UK, 2016. Available at:
  11. Mylan. Dymista 137 micrograms / 50 micrograms per actuation Nasal Spray – summary of product characteristics. August 2018.

About this management algorithm

Disclaimer: Guidelines identified a need for clinical guidance in a specific area and approached Mylan for an educational grant to support this work. This algorithm was developed by Guidelines, and the Chair and members of the working group were chosen and convened by Guidelines. The content is independent of and not influenced by Mylan, who checked the final document for technical accuracy and to ensure compliance with regulations. The views and opinions of the contributors are not necessarily those of Mylan, or of Guidelines, its publisher, advisers, or advertisers. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without the permission of the publisher.

Group members:Dr Glenis Scadding, Honorary Consultant Physician in Allergy and Rhinology at the Royal National Throat, Nose and Ear Hospital, and Honorary Senior Lecturer at University College London. Dr Steve Holmes, GP and GP trainer, Shepton Mallet, Associate Postgraduate Dean [HEE South West], Education lead for PCRS and member of the IPCRG Education Committee, Respiratory Clinical Lead for Somerset CCG. Dr Dermot Ryan, Honorary Clinical Research Fellow, University of Edinburgh, Member of ARIA, General Practitioner, Nottingham, and Mr Andrew Williams, Allergy Nurse Freelance educator, writer, and adviser. Current Honorary Allergy Nurse Specialist at Broomfield NHS Hospital. 

Date of preparation: July 2020