Background The prevalence of allergic sensitization has increased worldwide during recent years.
Objective The aim of the study was to estimate the prevalence of allergic sensitization and to evaluate the influence of age, gender, number of siblings, pet keeping in childhood, and residential area before the age of five on allergic sensitization among adolescents and adults aged 17–66 years in the capital of Estonia, Tallinn. A cross-sectional study was carried out between March 1997 and December 1998.
Methods The sensitization to 15 inhalant allergens was assessed. The associations between sensitization based on skin prick tests (SPTs), symptoms based on a structured interview, and possible risk factors were estimated. A random sample of 516 subjects was included in the study analysis.
Results The prevalence of allergic sensitization was 34.5%, while it was 39.3% in subjects aged 20–44 years. The most prevalent sensitization was against the German cockroach, 15.5%, and it was particularly high among adolescents. It was followed by mugwort, dog, two storage mites species, and cat dander. Subjects with wheezing during the last 12 months, attacks of shortness of breath, wheezing due to furred animals, and allergic rhinitis or conjunctivitis had a significantly higher prevalence of positive SPT.
Conclusion We found a surprisingly high prevalence of allergic sensitization among adults in Tallinn. Our results suggest that the cockroach allergen should be included in the investigation panel in order to reach a true prevalence of allergic sensitization in Estonia. Further, the pattern of allergic sensitization in Estonia appears to be different from published data about allergic sensitization in Scandinavia.
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