Common Diseases Clearly Related to Allergy and IgE Antibody

Three common diseases are clearly related to exposure to indoor allergens: asthma, rhinitis (hay fever), and allergic skin conditions (i.e., eczema and urticaria). Although specific causal genes have not been identified, the genetic predisposition for these diseases is well established. If neither parent has a history of allergy or atopy, a child has only a 0–19 percent chance of having a childhood allergic disease. If one parent has atopy, the risk rises to 31–58 percent; if both parents have atopy, the risk rises still further to 60–100 percent (Zeiger, 1988; Table 2-5). In addition, an earlier age of onset of allergic disease is related to a family history of atopy (Figure 2-5; Smith, 1988). Examples of the effects of these diseases on quality of life are provided in Box 2-1. The economic impact of these conditions was discussed briefly in Chapter 1.

TABLE 2-5 Prediction of Development of Sensitization or Allergic Disease in Childhood Based on Parameters Present During Infancy


Likelihood of Allergic Disease (%)

Parental atopy history

Both parents


One parent


Neither parent


Aeroallergen exposure assessed at age 1*

<10 µg Der p I/g of dust


>10 µg Der p I/g of dust


Serum IgE during infancy

Increased >1 standard deviation above geometric mean




Illness during infancy

Recurrent croup


Recurrent wheezing


Wheezing and blood eosinophilia


Wheezing and positive radioallergosorbent test


None of these illnesses


SOURCE: Zeiger (1988) and Sporik et al. (1990).

* The data on aeroallergen exposure, which were derived from Sporik and colleagues, were obtained from a cohort of newborns, each of whom had one parent with allergic disease. Asthma was defined as active wheezing and bronchial hyperreactivity. The numbers in parentheses show the percentage of all subjects who reported a history of wheezing. The relative risk of active asthma was 4.8 times greater if the child had been exposed to more than 10 µg of Der p I/g of dust in infancy. The percentage of sensitization for children exposed to less than 10 µg Der p I/g of dust was 31 percent; the percentage for children exposed to more than 10 µg was 56 percent.

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