Can subjects with a positive allergen skin test be selected by a short questionnaire?

The Glostrup Allergy Study, Denmark


Dr Niels Henrik Nielsen, The Glostrup Population Studies Medical Department C Sygeplejebygningen 7. sal Glostrup Hospital University of Copenhagen DK-2600 Glostrup Denmark


The objective was to evaluate a postal questionnaire screening procedure for selection of subjects with positive reactions to skin prick tests with common allergens. The project consisted of a screening, with subsequent skin prick test of two selected groups. The setting was the Glostrup Population Studies institute in Copenhagen, Denmark. Participants in the screening included 8000 subjects, aged 15–69 years. The subjects were randomly selected from the population of western Copenhagen County, Denmark. From the 6998 respondents (87.5%), 793 subjects were randomly selected (Random Group), and 788 subjects were chosen on the basis of their answers to the questionnaire (Symptom Group). Both groups were invited to take skin prick tests. Attendance rates were 75.5% (Random Group) and 80.6% (Symptom Group).

The main outcome measures were responses (yes or no) to the specific questions and the subjects' skin reaction (positive or negative). The association between symptoms and skin reactivity, adjusted for the effects of sex and age, was summarized by odds ratios. Symptoms on exposure to allergens were highly associated with positive skin reactivity. In the Symptom Group the percentage of subjects with at least one positive skin reaction was 57.7%, which was twice as much (28.4%) as in the Random Group. The results show that it was possible to select a group with high skin reactivity on the basis of the symptoms reported in the screening. Questions about exposure to allergens were the most appropriate for selection of this group.