Background Allergic rhinoconjunctivitis and asthma evolve dynamically throughout childhood. Yet, data on the evolution of serum levels of IgE antibodies against airborne allergens throughout the first decade of life are scarce.
Objective To describe the patterns of new and persistent sensitization against airborne allergens including remission from birth to 10 years of age and the long-term clinical outcomes up to the age of 13 years.
Methods In 273 children from the Multi-Centre Allergy Study, a German birth cohort, IgE levels were determined against airborne allergens (Dermatophagoides pteronyssinus, cat and dog dander, birch and grass species pollens) at 2, 5, 7, and 10 years of age (ImmunoCAP, Phadia); allergic rhino-conjunctivitis and asthma were ascertained at the 13 years of age through a standardized questionnaire (International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood).
Results The prevalence of sensitization to each allergen increased steadily throughout childhood, and a hierarchy of sensitization prevalence (grass>birch>mites>cat>dog) was maintained from 5 years of age onwards. A mono-sensitization state was relatively short (measurable half-life=3 years) as additional sensitizations were acquired frequently, and relatively soon after the first one. Remission of weak sensitization (UNICAP classes 1–2) was also quite frequent, especially before 5 years of age. By contrast, stronger IgE responses (>3.5 kU/L) were invariably persistent. Early sensitization was associated with a higher tendency for poly-sensitization at 10 years of age and allergic rhino-conjunctivitis and/or asthma at 13 years of age.
Conclusions IgE responses against airborne allergens undergo dynamic changes throughout childhood, with a high frequency of new sensitization or remission. The long-term persistence and the clinical impact of IgE responses are affected by the intensity of IgE sensitization and the age of its onset.