Development of seasonal allergic rhinitis during the first 7 years of life

M Kulig, U Klettke, V Wahn, J Forster, C P Bauer, U Wahn
Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 2000, 106 (5): 832-9

BACKGROUND: Against the background of the controversial discussion about an increase in allergic rhinitis in recent years, intraindividual longitudinal data is lacking for IgE-mediated seasonal allergic rhinitis (SAR). Little is known about the development of SAR in terms of prevalence and incidence rates from birth to school age.

OBJECTIVE: In a prospective birth cohort, we investigated the development of sensitization and symptoms of SAR. SAR should be defined with high specificity, and associated risk factors should be determined.

METHODS: Annual longitudinal data about seasonal allergic symptoms and sensitization was available for 587 children from birth to their seventh birthday. The definition of SAR was based on a combination of exposure-related symptoms and sensitization.

RESULTS: Up to 7 years of age, SAR developed in 15% of the children. Incidence and prevalence of symptoms and sensitization were low during early childhood (<2%) and increased steadily with age. Children in which SAR had already developed in the second year all were born in spring or early summer, resulting in at least two seasons of pollen exposure before manifestation of SAR. Risk factors assessed by multiple logistic regression analysis were male sex (odds ratio [OR] = 2.4), atopic mothers (OR = 2.6) and fathers (OR = 3.6) having allergic rhinitis themselves, first-born child (OR = 2.0), early sensitization to food (OR = 3.3), and atopic dermatitis (OR = 2.5), whereas early wheezing was not associated with SAR.

CONCLUSION: The development of SAR is characterized by a marked increase in prevalence and incidence after the second year of life. Our longitudinal data further indicate that in combination with the risk of allergic predisposition, at least 2 seasons of pollen allergen exposure are needed before allergic rhinitis becomes clinically manifest.

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