Diagnosis of allergy syndromes: do symptoms always mean allergy?


Philippe A. Eigenmann, MD
Hopital des Enfants
6, rue Willy-Donze
1211 Geneva 14


Allergic disease has become a major burden in westernized societies because of a recent rise in its prevalence. Approximately one-third of children suffer from an allergic disease, with the prevalence varying from 15 to 20% for atopic dermatitis, 7 to 10% for asthma and 15 to 20% for allergic rhinitis and conjunctivitis. Despite the increase, it is important not to assume a diagnosis of allergy on the basis of symptoms alone, because allergic and nonallergic conditions may present with similar symptoms. An accurate allergy diagnosis is important in order to treat the patient most appropriately and to potentially prevent or delay the development of allergic disease. A good clinical history is the starting point for accurate allergy diagnosis but is not unequivocal. The European Academy of Allergy and Clinical Immunology has recognized the importance of allergy testing and therefore developed evidence-based recommendations on allergy testing in children. Widespread adherence to these recommendations should improve the quality of care for allergy patients. Cooperation between all healthcare professionals involved in the treatment of allergy patients is also a key to improve our response to the allergy epidemic.