A growing use of complementary alternative medicine (CAM) has been found in Europe as well in Italy for chronic diseases, including the allergic rhinitis. The study aims at investigating the prevalence and the pattern of use of CAM amongst patient with allergic rhinitis.
A 12-item questionnaire was developed by a panel of experts and administered to patients with moderate/severe allergic rhinitis consecutively referring during the study time-frame to seven allergy clinics placed all around Italy. The items covered several topics including reason for choosing CAM, its clinical efficacy, schedule of treatment, costs, type of therapy.
Overall 359 questionnaires were analysed. 20% of patients declared CAM use. A significant correlation between the use of CAM and female sex (p < 0.01) and with a higher level of education (p < 0.01) was observed. CAM users were adults (36% in the range between 20 and 40 years and 32% between 41 and 60 years). Youngsters (< 20 years) (7%) and elderly (> 60) (25%) less frequently used CAM.The most used type of CAM was homoeopathy (77% of patients). 60% of users would recommend CAM despite a poor clinical efficacy according to 67% of them.
Although no evidence supports CAM efficacy and safety, the number of patients who relies on it is not negligible. As allergic rhinitis is not a trivial disease, the use of CAM as the only treatment for it should be discouraged at any level, but by general practitioner and specialist in particular.