Allergic sensitization is age-dependently associated with rhinitis, but less so with asthma

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Epidemiologic data describing the association between allergic sensitization and asthma and allergic rhinitis in adults are scarce.


To determine the prevalence and impact of specific sensitization to airborne allergens on asthma and allergic rhinitis among adults in relation to age.


A random population sample (age 21–86 years) was examined with structured interview and analysis of specific IgE to 9 common airborne allergens. Of those invited, 692 (68%) subjects participated in blood sampling. IgE level of 0.35 U/mL or more to the specific allergen was defined as a positive test result.


Allergic sensitization decreased with increasing age, both in the population sample and among subjects with asthma and allergic rhinitis. In a multivariate model, sensitization to animal was significantly positively associated with asthma (odds ratio [OR], 4.80; 95% CI, 2.68–8.60), whereas sensitization to both animal (OR, 3.90; 95% CI, 2.31–6.58) and pollen (OR, 4.25; 95% CI, 2.55–7.06) was significantly associated with allergic rhinitis. The association between allergic sensitization and rhinitis was consistently strongest among the youngest age group, whereas this pattern was not found for asthma. The prevalence of allergic sensitization among patients with asthma decreased by increasing age of asthma onset, 86% with asthma onset at age 6 y or less, 56% at age 7 to 19 years, and 26% with asthma onset at age 20 years or more.


Sensitization to animal was associated with asthma across all age groups; allergic rhinitis was associated with sensitization to both pollen and animal and consistently stronger among younger than among older adults. Early onset of asthma was associated with allergic sensitization among adults with asthma.

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