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Keywords:

  • childhood;
  • IgE;
  • quantitative assay;
  • rhinitis;
  • rhinoconjunctivitis

Background:  Atopy quantification using IgE levels/skin test diameter (SPT-MWD) may better predict the expression of rhinitis than using atopy as a dichotomous variable.

Objective:  To investigate the association between the presence, temporal pattern and severity of rhinitis in preschool children and specific IgE levels/SPT-MWDs.

Methods:  Children were followed prospectively to age 5 years in a whole-population birth cohort study. We administered questionnaires (n = 815), skin prick tested children (n = 717) and measured specific serum IgE (n = 478) to inhalant and food allergens. Main outcomes were current rhinitis (CR) and current rhinoconjunctivitis (CRC).

Results:  The prevalence of CR and CRC was 26.1% and 12.1%, respectively. The risk of CR and CRC increased significantly with increasing IgE to grass, mite and cat; CRC was also associated with increasing IgE to dog and peanut. Similarly, increasing SPT-MWDs to inhalant allergens were significantly associated with CR and CRC. This association was also shown for grass within the group of atopic children. Perennial and seasonal rhinitis were associated with increasing IgE/SPT-MWD to mite and grass, respectively. Moderate/severe rhinitis was associated with increasing IgE/SPT-MWD to grass. In a multivariate analysis, increasing levels of IgE/SPT-MWD to grass were the strongest independent predictors of both CR (for IgE: OR 1.42, 95% CI 1.23–1.64, P < 0.001) and CRC (for IgE: 1.51, 1.30–1.76, P < 0.001).

Conclusion:  The probability of CR/CRC increases with increasing specific IgE levels or SPT-MWD. With respect to allergic rhinitis, the absolute levels of specific IgE antibody or the size of SPT wheal offer more information than just the presence/absence of sensitization.