Does sensitization to contact allergens begin in infancy?

A L Bruckner, W L Weston, J G Morelli
Pediatrics 2000, 105 (1): e3

OBJECTIVE: Because previous studies have found allergic contact sensitization common in children by 5 years of age, our aim was to determine the prevalence of positive epicutaneous test results in children <5 years of age and to determine whether sensitization to contact allergens was as common in infancy.

METHODS: We recruited 95 asymptomatic children 6 months to 5 years of age from well-child visits at Denver area pediatric practices for epicutaneous patch testing using the T.R.U.E. Test system. Allergens were placed on the skin for 48 hours, and at a later follow-up visit, positive reactions were evaluated.

RESULTS: A total of 85 patients completed the study. Of these, 20 (24.5%) had 1 or more positive reactions to the tested allergens. Positive reactors ranged from 6 to 65.5 months of age, with an average of 30.4 months of age. Of the children, 16 reacted to 1 allergen, and 4 reacted to 2. Eleven positive reactions were observed to nickel, followed by 8 to thimerosal. Other positive reactions were to neomycin, cobalt, and kathon CG.

CONCLUSIONS: Children as young as 6 months of age may be sensitized to contact allergens. Within this pediatric population, the prevalence of sensitization is 24.5%. Sensitization to contact allergens may occur in infants.

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