Patients with a predisposition to atopic dermatitis often need to be patch tested in order to detect possible contact sensitization. However, it is unknown whether immunologic or other peculiarities of atopic skin are related to altered patch-test reaction patterns. Our study was aimed at answering this question, because patch-test reaction patterns are of considerable practical importance in the reading and interpretation of patch tests. Therefore, we compared patterns of patch-test reactions in patients with a predisposition to atopic dermatitis and in control patients matched for sex, age, reason for testing and test centre. Patch-test results from 9 centres (2322 patients with a disposition to atopic dermatitis and 2126 matched controls) were evaluated retrospectively. All patients were tested with nickel sulfate, fragrance mix, potassium dichromate, lanolin alcohol, formaldehyde and mercury ammonium chloride. Patch tests applied for 1 day with readings on days 1, 2 and 3 were evaluated in order to cover the early phase of the reactions. Not unexpectedly, we found that, compared to the matched controls, patients with a predisposition to atopic dermatitis tended to have more doubtful and irritant reactions on day 1. As a new observation, it turned out that they had less reactions of crescendo pattern and more strong reactions on day 3. All these differences were slight/insignificant. A higher skin irritability in patients with a predisposition to atopic dermatitis is a likely explanation. In conclusion, standard methods for patch testing can be applied in patients with a predisposition to atopic dermatitis, but minor differences in reaction patterns should be considered.