The associations between skin sensitivity to various common allergens and the development of childhood asthma were ascertained in a longitudinal study of a birth cohort of New Zealand children up to the age of 13 years. Of 714 children skin-tested, 45.8% were sensitive to at least one of 11 allergens, the most common responses being to rye grass pollen (32.5%), house dust mite (30.1%) and cat dander (13.3%). Allergen-specific relative risk analysis, controlled for the effect of sensitivity to other allergens, demonstrated that sensitivity to house dust mite and to cat dander were highly significant independent risk factors associated with the development of asthma (whether defined as recurrent typical respiratory symptoms, increased airway responsiveness, or the concurrent presence of both), whereas grass sensitivity was not a significant independent risk factor for asthma.
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