, Volume 15, Issue 7, pp 453-463
Date: 15 Aug 2012

Clinical Prescribing of Allergic Rhinitis Medication in the Preschool and Young School-Age Child

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Allergic rhinitis (AR) is the most common chronic condition in children and is estimated to affect up to 40% of all children. It is usually diagnosed by the age of 6 years. The major impact in children is due to co-morbidity of sinusitis, otitis media with effusion, and bronchial asthma. AR also has profound effects on school absenteeism, performance and quality of life.

Pharmacotherapy for AR should be based on the severity and duration of signs and symptoms. For mild, intermittent symptoms lasting a few hours to a few days, an oral second-generation antihistamine should be used on an as-needed basis. This is preferable to a less expensive first-generation antihistamine because of the effect of the latter on sedation and cognition. Four second-generation antihis-tamines are currently available for children under 12 years of age: cetirizine, loratadine, fexofenadine and azelastine nasal spray; each has been found to be well tolerated and effective. There are no clearcut advantages to distinguish these antihistamines, although for children under 5 years of age, only cetirizine and loratadine are approved. Other agents include pseudoephedrine, an oral vasoconstrictor, for nasal congestion, and the anticholinergic nasal spray ipratropium bromide for rhinorrhoea. Sodium cromoglycate, a mast cell stabiliser nasal spray, may also be useful in this population.

For patients with more persistent, severe symptoms, intranasal corticosteroids are indicated, although one might consider azelastine nasal spray, which has anti-inflammatory activity in addition to its antihistamine effect. With the exception of fluticasone propionate for children aged 4 years and older, and mometasone furoate for those aged 3 years and older, the other intranasal corticosteroids including beclomethasone dipropionate, triamcinolone, flunisolide and budesonide are approved for children aged 6 years and older. All are effective, so a major consideration would be cost and safety. For short term therapy of 1 to 2 months, the first-generation intranasal corticosteroids (beclomethasone dipropionate, triamcinolone, budesonide and flunisolide) could be used, and mometasone furoate and fluticasone propionate could be considered for longer-term treatment. Although somewhat more costly, these second-generation drugs have lower bio-availability and thus would have a better safety profile.

In patients not responding to the above programme or who require continuous medication, identification of specific triggers by an allergist can allow for specific avoidance measures and/or immunotherapy to decrease the allergic component and increase the effectiveness of the pharmacological regimen.