Skin prick test can identify eczematous infants at risk of asthma and allergic rhinitis

A J Lowe, C S Hosking, C M Bennett, J B Carlin, M J Abramson, D J Hill, S C Dharmage
Clinical and Experimental Allergy 2007, 37 (11): 1624-31

BACKGROUND: Assessment of allergic sensitization is not routinely performed in infants and young children with eczema.

OBJECTIVE: To determine whether infants who have atopic eczema (with sensitization) are at a greater risk of developing asthma and allergic rhinitis (AR) than those with non-atopic eczema (without concurrent sensitization).

METHODS: The presence of eczema was prospectively documented until 2 years of age in a birth cohort of 620 infants with a family history of atopic disease. Sensitization status was determined by skin prick tests (SPTs) at 6, 12, and 24 months using six common allergens. Interviews were conducted at 6 and 7 years to determine the presence of asthma and AR.

RESULTS: Within the first 2 years of life, 28.7% of the 443 children who could be classified had atopic eczema: 20.5% had non-atopic eczema, 19.0% were asymptomatic but sensitized and 31.8% were asymptomatic and not sensitized. When compared with children with non-atopic eczema in the first 2 years of life, children with atopic eczema had a substantially greater risk of asthma [odds ratio (OR)=3.52, 95% confidence interval=1.88-6.59] and AR (OR=2.91, 1.48-5.71). The increased risk of asthma was even greater if the infant had a large SPT (OR=4.61, 2.34-9.09) indicative of food allergy. There was no strong evidence that children with non-atopic eczema had an increased risk of asthma or AR compared with asymptomatic children.

CONCLUSION: In children with eczema within the first 2 years of life, SPT can provide valuable information on the risk of childhood asthma and AR.

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