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Summary

The association between house dust mite allergen in house dust and childhood respiratory symptoms was investigated in a case-control study of 259 children with reported chronic respiratory symptoms and 257 control children without reported respiratory symptoms. The Der p I concentration in floor dust of the living room and bedroom and in mattress dust was determined using an enzyme immunoassay. Venous blood samples were taken from all children for serum IgE determination against house dust mite (Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus) by radioallergosorbent assay (RAST). A questionnaire was administered to the parents of the children to elicit information about the home, about changes made to the home in the past in relation to respiratory symptoms, and about a number of risk factors for childhood respiratory disease. In 83% of the dwellings of cases and 89% of those of controls, Der p I concentrations higher than 2000 ng/g were found, and in 54% of the dwellings of cases and 57% of those of controls, the concentrations exceeded 10 000 ng/g dust. In a crude analysis, cases were generally exposed to lower Der p I concentrations than controls. Restriction of the analysis to cases sensitized to dust mites, and non-sensitized controls, taking the type of floor covering into account, showed not significantly higher Der p I concentrations in bedroom floor dust of cases. However, restriction of the analysis to cases sensitizied to dust mites and cases not sensitized to house dust mites — adjusting for allergen avoidance measures taken in the past — revealed a positive association between the Der p I concentrations in bedroom floor dust and mattress dust and sensitization. This finding indicates that allergen avoidance measures modify current exposure to Der p I. This obscures the relationship between the exposure to mite allergens and sensitization, and hampers the estimation of the association between exposure to house dust mite allergens, sensitization and the development of respiratory symptoms.