Background Although allergy is highly associated with childhood asthma, it is not well known if there is a relationship between the intensity of allergic sensitization and asthma severity.
Objective The objectives of the study were to examine the relationships between several markers of allergy and asthma severity in asthmatic children included in the Epidemiological study on the Genetics and Environment of Asthma, bronchial hyper-responsiveness and atopy (EGEA).
Methods The population comprised 216 asthmatic children below 16 years of age. Total IgE and blood eosinophil counts were measured and skin prick tests to 11 aeroallergens were performed. The intensity of the allergic sensitization was assessed by the number of positive skin prick tests and by skin weal sizes. Asthma severity was measured with four criteria: a clinical severity score, history of hospitalization for asthma, FEV1% predicted and inhaled steroid use in the last 12 months.
Results Most of the children were sensitized to at least one aeroallergen (88.2%). Atopy was not related to the severity of asthma, except for a tendency for a more severe clinical score in non-atopic children. The type and intensity of the allergic sensitization were not associated with any criteria of asthma severity. Total IgE was significantly increased in children treated with inhaled corticosteroids and in children ever hospitalized for asthma (P-values 0.009 and 0.04, respectively). Eosinophil counts were not related to asthma severity.
Conclusion Our results suggest that severe childhood asthma may be related to a high level of total IgE but not to blood eosinophil counts. The lack of positive relationships between both atopy and the intensity of allergic sensitization with asthma severity supports the hypothesis of different risk factors being associated with asthma and with the severity of asthma.