Atopy in Danish children and adolescents: results from a longitudinal population study

C S Ulrik, V Backer
Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology 2000, 85 (4): 293-7

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE: Atopy is an objectively measurable trait related to the presence of rhinitis and asthma, but our knowledge about its longitudinal predictors is limited. Data from a 6-year follow-up study of a population sample of children and adolescents (n = 408), aged 7 to 17 years at enrollment, were analyzed to investigate the prevalence and predictors of atopy.

METHODS: Case history, including allergic diseases and smoking habits, was obtained by interview and questionnaire. Skin prick test reactivity to common allergens, total serum IgE, airway responsiveness, and pulmonary function were measured using standard techniques.

RESULTS: The point prevalence of atopy increased from the first to the second survey, 26% and 44%, respectively; 23% of the participants had a positive skin prick test only at the second survey. Sensitization to house dust mite (HDM) (P < .001), grass (P < .001), dog (P < .001), cat (P < .001), and birch (P = .02) increased significantly in both males and females. No gender differences in the prevalence of positive reactions were found at the first survey, whereas atopy to grass (P = .01) and HDM (P = .02) were more prevalent in males than in females at the second survey. Confining the analysis to participants who were found to be non-atopic at the first survey showed that exposure to maternal smoking (OR 2, CI 1.3 to 3.1; P = .002), increased serum IgE (OR 1.7, CI 1.2 to 2.3; P = .001), new asthma (OR 1.6, CI 1.2 to 2.7; P = .03), and new rhinitis (OR 2.1, CI 1.2 to 3.6; P = .01), but not active smoking, were associated with an increased risk for the presence of a positive skin prick test at the second survey.

CONCLUSIONS: This longitudinal population study showed an increase in the point prevalence of atopy in Danish children and adolescents; and, furthermore, that exposure to maternal smoking during childhood, increased serum IgE, and new symptoms of asthma or rhinitis were associated with an increased risk for developing sensitization to common aeroallergens in late adolescence.

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