Background Asthma causes significant morbidity in children, and studies have demonstrated that environmental allergies contribute to increased asthma morbidity.
Objective We investigated the differences between allergen skin tests and specific IgE (SIgE) and the role of IgG in regards to allergen exposure levels, and asthma morbidity in inner-city children.
Methods Five hundred and six serum samples from the National Cooperative Inner City Asthma Study (NCICAS) were evaluated for SIgE to cockroach (Blattella germanica), dust mite (Dermatophagoides farinae), and Alternaria as well as specific IgG (SIgG) and IgG4 to cockroach (B. germanica) and total IgE levels. Associations between sensitization to these allergens, exposures, and asthma morbidity were determined.
Results Sensitization to environmental allergens and total IgE correlated with increased health care and medication use, but not with symptoms of wheeze. Sensitization with exposure to cockroach was associated with increased asthma morbidity, whereas dust mite sensitization was correlated with asthma morbidity independent of exposure. There was also a strong correlation between SIgE levels and skin test results, but the tests did not always agree. The relationship between SIgE and asthma morbidity is linear with no obvious cutoff value. Increased Bla g 1 in the home was a good predictor for sensitization; however, this relationship was not demonstrated for Der f 1. Cockroach SIgG correlated with increased health care use, however, there was no modifying effect of SIgG or SIgG4 on the association between cockroach SIgE and asthma morbidity.
Conclusions SIgE levels and skin prick test results to environmental allergens can serve as markers of severe asthma for inner-city children. Asthma morbidity increased in a linear manner with SIgE levels. IgG was not an important predictor or modifier of asthma morbidity.