Their runny noses might drive them crazy, but people with allergic rhinitis are likely to outlive the rest of us, a new study suggests.
"We found that allergic rhinitis patients had a decreased risk of heart attack, a decreased risk of stroke and, most strikingly, a decreased risk of all-cause mortality," said lead investigator Angelina Crans Yoon, MD, from the Department of Allergy and Clinical Immunology at the Kaiser Permanente Los Angeles Medical Center.
"They were basically half as likely to die during the study period," she told Medscape Medical News.
Researchers studying data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found that people who tested positive for allergies were less likely to suffer cardiovascular events.
To explore the issue further, Dr. Crans Yoon and her team looked at a database of Southern California patients.The cohort consisted of 109,229 patients with allergic rhinitis and 109,229 people without allergic rhinitis who were matched for age, sex, and ethnicity. It also consisted of 92,775 patients with asthma who were matched with a similar group without asthma.
Risk for acute myocardial infarction was 25% lower in patients with allergic rhinitis than in those without, risk for a cerebrovascular event was 19% lower, and risk for all-cause mortality was 49% lower. Risk for all cardiovascular events was similar in the allergic rhinitis and control groups.
In contrast, risk for all cardiovascular events was 36% higher in patients with asthma than in those without, whereas risk for cerebrovascular disease and all-cause mortality were similar.
This could be the result of a difference in phenotypes in asthma patients, said Dr. Crans Yoon. People whose asthma is caused by allergies could be at less risk for cardiovascular events than people whose asthma has other causes.
Why should allergic rhinitis decrease someone's risk for death?
Another explanation could be that the immune systems of patients with allergic rhinitis are hyperalert, aggressively fighting off disease, as well as causing symptoms, when it is not necessary. More work is needed to evaluate that.