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Abstract

The relationship between food and environmental allergens in contributing to eczema risk is unclear on a multiethnic population level. Our purpose was to determine whether sensitization to specific dietary and environmental allergens as measured according to higher specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) levels is associated with eczema risk in children. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey participants ages 1 to 17 years were asked whether they had ever received a diagnosis of eczema from a physician (n = 538). Total and specific serum IgE levels for four dietary allergens (egg, cow's milk, peanut, and shrimp) and five environmental allergens (dust mite, cat, dog, Aspergillus, and Alternaria) were measured. Logistic regression was used to examine the association between eczema and IgE levels. In the United States, 10.4 million children (15.6%) have a history of eczema. Eczema was more common in black children (p < 0.001) and in children from families with higher income and education (p = 0.01). The median total IgE levels were higher in children with a history of eczema than in those without (66.4 vs 50.6 kU/L, p = 0.004). In multivariate analysis adjusted for age, race, sex, family income, household education, and physician-diagnosed asthma, eczema was significantly associated with sensitization to cat dander (odds ratio [OR] = 1.2, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.05, 1.4, p = 0.009) and dog dander (OR = 1.5, 95% CI, 1.2, 1.7, p < 0.001). After correction for multiple comparisons, only sensitization to dog dander remained significant. U.S. children with eczema are most likely to be sensitized to dog dander. Future prospective studies should further explore this relationship.