• atopy patch test;
  • children;
  • epidemiology;
  • food allergens;
  • inhalant allergens;
  • unselected population

Atopy patch test (APT) has been used as a diagnostic tool in patients with suspected food or inhalant allergy. This study assessed the prevalence of positive APT with food or inhalant allergens in an unselected population of schoolchildren. We also evaluated the link between positive APT reactions and skin-prick tests (SPT) for food and inhalant allergens, circulating eosinophils and histamine skin reactivity. We studied an unselected population of 380 children aged 9 or 13 yr living in Rome, Italy. APTs were carried out with food (native or standardized) and inhalant allergens. All the children also underwent skin-prick testing with five common inhalant and four food allergens. We also measured eosinophil cell counts and histamine skin reactivity. The prevalence of positive APT reactions for foods in unselected children ranged between 4% and 11% for hen’s egg, tomato, and wheat flour and was similar for both age groups studied. The prevalence of positive APT for milk was significantly lower in children aged 13 than in children aged 9 (p = 0.013). No concordance emerged between positive APT and SPT for foods. Conversely, APT and SPT for inhalant allergens yielded statistically significant concordance (p < 0.001). APT produces positive reactions for food or inhalant allergens in a significant number of subjects in the general population of schoolchildren. Age influences the prevalence of positive APTs with cow’s milk to some extent. Inhalant allergens probably induce a positive APT reaction through an immunoglobulin E-linked process, while food allergens probably do not.