Development of specific immunoglobulin E in coughing toddlers: a medical records review of symptoms in general practice

P Eysink, P Bindels, J Huisman, B Bottema, R Aalberse, B Schadé
Pediatric Allergy and Immunology 2001, 12 (3): 133-41
The aim of this study was to study whether young children, originally immunoglobulin E (IgE) negative and who became sensitized to specific inhalation allergens, presented more frequently to their general practitioner (GP) with other allergy- and asthma-related symptoms than children who remained IgE negative. It was also investigated whether asthma was diagnosed more often in children who developed IgE to inhalant allergens. Coughing children, 1-5 years of age, visiting the participating GPs, were tested for IgE antibodies to mites, dogs, and cats by using radioallergosorbent testing (RAST). All IgE-negative (RAST < 0.2 IU/ml) children were re-tested after 2 years. The medical records of 162 children were reviewed on asthma- and allergy-related symptoms and on prescribed medication. After 30 months, 27 of the 162 children (17%) had become IgE positive for one or more allergens. Most children (93%) had visited their GP for treatment of respiratory symptoms during this period. However, the children who had become IgE positive had visited their GP more often than the children who remained IgE negative. Differences in visits were seen for: shortness of breath (52% IgE-positive vs. 19% IgE-negative children, respectively), wheeze (37% vs. 17%), allergic rhinitis (33% vs. 16%), and pneumonia (22% vs. 8%), but not for coughing (89% vs. 88%). The IgE-positive children were more frequently diagnosed by their GP as having asthma (48%) than were the IgE-negative children (23%). In a multivariate analysis, indicators of becoming IgE positive were: a visit for shortness of breath (odds ratio [OR] = 6.9; 95% confidence interval [CI] = 2.1-23.1) and two or more visits for wheeze (OR = 6.0; 95% CI = 1.9-19.2), adjusted for breast-feeding, age, and asthma or allergy in the family. The positive predictive value (PPV) of being IgE positive with a diagnosis of asthma was 90% (whereas the negative predictive value was 48.0%) for a child attending their GP for treatment of wheeze. For recurrent coughing (six or more visits) and shortness of breath, the PPVs were 73% and 71%, respectively. The development of sensitization to common inhalant allergens is associated with specific allergy and asthma-related symptoms in young children. IgE-positive children were more frequently diagnosed as having asthma by their GP. This implies that in general practice it is possible to detect children at high risk for developing allergic asthma early in life by their respiratory symptoms and by subsequent testing for specific IgE to inhalant allergens.

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