Background: The risk of allergic disease may be influenced by the degree of “westernization”. A survey was conducted to ascertain whether the prevalence of allergy was lower in Albania than elsewhere in Europe, as it has been the most isolated European country.
Methods: The subjects were residents of Tirana aged 20–44 years. A screening questionnaire was completed by 2653 subjects. A more detailed questionnaire was administered to a random sample of 564 respondents, together with skin prick tests and serum IgE assay.
Results: The prevalence of wheeze in the last year, and of wheeze without a cold, was lower in Albania than in any country that participated in the European Community Respiratory Health Survey. Nasal allergy and atopy (as indicated by serum specific IgE) were also uncommon in Albania, although serum total IgE concentrations were high.
Conclusions: The findings confirmed the hypothesis of a low prevalence of allergy in Albania. Possible reasons include the recent economic isolation of Albania, the infrequency of smoking by women, the lack of domestic pets, and the high incidence of childhood infection and parasitic infestation. The prevalence of allergy and its potential determinants should be monitored in Albania as that country acquires the characteristics of other parts of Europe.