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Keywords:

  • asthma;
  • eczema;
  • epidemiology;
  • Allergic sensitization;
  • rhinitis

Sensitization to different airborne allergens in relation to asthma, rhinitis, and eczema has been studied. A cross-sectional study was performed among 7–8-year-old children living in northern Sweden. The ISAAC-questionnaire with additional questions were sent to the parents, and 3431 (97%) participated. Two-thirds of the children were invited to undergo a skin test with 10 common airborne allergens, and 2148 (88%) participated. The prevalence rates of all three diseases were significantly higher among the children who were sensitized to any of the tested allergens. Among asthmatics, 40% were sensitized to cat, 34% to dog, 28% to horse, 23% to birch and 16% to timothy. The corresponding figures for rhinitis were: cat 49%, dog 33%, horse 37%, birch 46%, timothy 32%; and for eczema: cat 29%, dog 21%, horse 15%, birch 20%, and timothy 11%. Only a few children were sensitized to mites or moulds. The main risk factors for all three diseases were type-1 allergy and a family history of the disease. Independently from other risk factors, sensitization to dog (OR 2.4) and horse (OR 2.2) were significant risk factors for asthma. Sensitization to birch (OR 6.0), horse (OR 4.1), and timothy (OR 2.8) were significant risk factors for rhinitis, while birch (OR 2.4), dog (OR 2.0) and cat (OR 1.6) were significant risk factors for eczema. Despite a large over-lapping of the diseases the pattern of sensitization was different for asthma, rhinitis and eczema. Sensitization to cat was most common among all children, but sensitization to dog and horse was associated with the highest risk for asthma, and sensitization to birch showed the highest risk for rhinitis and eczema. The different risk factor pattern for the often coexisting diseases; asthma, rhinitis, and eczema, may indicate differences in the etiology.