Background: The relationship between atopy and bronchial allergy in young children is not completely understood.
Objective: To examine the association between response to bronchial allergen challenge, immune markers of atopy and other clinical characteristics in 5- to 6-year-old children.
Methods: Children with positive skin test (SPT) to aeroallergen, together with a proportion of SPT negative children (as controls), were recruited from a birth cohort of 198 children at high risk of developing atopic disease and underwent allergen challenge.
Results: Thirty-seven children (26 atopic and 11 SPT negative), median age 74.5 months, were challenged: 31 with house dust mite and six with grass allergen. Only atopic children responded to challenge: n = 12/26 (46%). Wheal size [odds ratio (OR) 2.5 (1.2–5.3), P = 0.01], allergen-specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) [OR 3.4 (1.23–9.61), P = 0.02], total IgE [OR 8.6 (1.1–68.7), P = 0.04], current wheeze [OR 12 (1.7–81.7), P = 0.006] and persistent eczema [OR 11.0 (1.7–68.3), P = 0.006] emerged as the strongest independent predictors of response to allergen challenge. Prediction of response to allergen challenge was significantly improved when immune markers of atopy, and in particular wheal size, were combined with clinical characteristics.
Conclusion: The relationship between atopy and bronchial allergy is quantitative at this age. There may be potential to create more powerful indicators of the presence of respiratory allergy in young children when immunological markers of atopy are considered quantitatively and when combined with clinical history of coexistent allergic disease.