Patch Testing in Children, Adults, and the Elderly: Influence of Age and Sex on Sensitization Patterns


Address correspondence to Stefan Wöhrl, M.D., FAZ – Floridsdorf Allergy Center, Franz-Jonas-Platz 8/6, A-1210 Vienna, Austria, or e-mail:


Abstract: Patch testing was done on 2776 consecutive patients (76.5% female) with a locally revised standard series of 34 contact allergens and the results analyzed for age- and gender-specific differences. At least one positive epicutaneous test reaction occurred in 48.9% of patients. Nickel (20.9%), ethylmercuric chloride (13.2%), thimerosal (11.8%), fragrance mix (9.3%), metallic mercury (8.9%), palladium (5.8%), balsam of Peru (3.8%), copper (3.7%), cobalt (3.3%), and chromium (2.3%) were the 10 most important sensitizers. The following tested allergens with sensitization rates of more than 1% were not part of the usual standard series: ethylmercuric chloride, metallic mercury, copper, propolis (1.3%), propylene glycol (1.0%). Reactions to nickel, cobalt, and palladium, but not to chromium, were significantly more abundant in females (p < 0.002, chi-squared test). The overall sensitization rate was highest in children less than 10 years old (62%) and decreased steadily, to be lowest among patients more than 70 years old (34.9%). The rate of positive reactions to nickel and thimerosal decreased with age, while fragrance mix and metallic mercury stayed at the same level through all age groups.