Allergic rhinitis is a symptomatic disorder of the nose induced after allergen exposure by an IgE-mediated inflammation of the membranes lining the nose. It is a global health problem that causes major illness and disability worldwide. Over 600 million patients from all countries, all ethnic groups and of all ages suffer from allergic rhinitis. It affects social life, sleep, school and work and its economic impact is substantial. Risk factors for allergic rhinitis are well identified. Indoor and outdoor allergens as well as occupational agents cause rhinitis and other allergic diseases. The role of indoor and outdoor pollution is probably very important, but has yet to be fully understood both for the occurrence of the disease and its manifestations. In 1999, during the Allergic Rhinitis and its Impact on Asthma (ARIA) WHO workshop, the expert panel proposed a new classification for allergic rhinitis which was subdivided into 'intermittent' or 'persistent' disease. This classification is now validated. The diagnosis of allergic rhinitis is often quite easy, but in some cases it may cause problems and many patients are still under-diagnosed, often because they do not perceive the symptoms of rhinitis as a disease impairing their social life, school and work. The management of allergic rhinitis is well established and the ARIA expert panel based its recommendations on evidence using an extensive review of the literature available up to December 1999. The statements of evidence for the development of these guidelines followed WHO rules and were based on those of Shekelle et al. A large number of papers have been published since 2000 and are extensively reviewed in the 2008 Update using the same evidence-based system. Recommendations for the management of allergic rhinitis are similar in both the ARIA workshop report and the 2008 Update. In the future, the GRADE approach will be used, but is not yet available. Another important aspect of the ARIA guidelines was to consider co-morbidities. Both allergic rhinitis and asthma are systemic inflammatory conditions and often co-exist in the same patients. In the 2008 Update, these links have been confirmed. The ARIA document is not intended to be a standard-of-care document for individual countries. It is provided as a basis for physicians, health care professionals and organizations involved in the treatment of allergic rhinitis and asthma in various countries to facilitate the development of relevant local standard-of-care documents for patients.