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Children's allergies often not seen in tests

Wednesday January 27th, 2010

By Jane Collingwood
Not all toddlers with allergies will continue to have the problem into adulthood, experts say.

Dr Ingeborg Smidesang and her team at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology say it is unclear which children will be affected as adults.

They write in the journal Pediatric Allergy and Immunology that allergies are a major health problem in most developed countries, but evidence on these disorders in early childhood is lacking.

They looked at figures from 4,783 two-year-old children. Parents filled in a questionnaire and the children all had allergy tests. Some of the children also had skin prick tests to highlight allergies.

Overall, 53 per cent of the children had at least one reported allergy. The most common symptom was wheezing, reported by 26 per cent of parents. Seven per cent had asthma diagnosed by a doctor, 17 per cent eczema, allergic rhinoconjunctivitis (eye inflammation) three per cent.

Having one allergic disorder substantially increased the risk of having another, say the researchers, and having eczema was most strongly linked to a positive allergy test.

But only eight per cent of the children who had a skin prick test responded positively. This means that few are likely to continue their symptoms into adulthood.

Dr Smidesang said: "One of the challenges here is that we don?t know which wheezers will develop asthma.

"If you think about something like moderate atopic eczema, which can involve quite a few doctor's visits, and a lot of work on the part of parents, it is quite a big deal."

"Boys are more likely than girls to have an allergy related disorder or a positive skin prick test, indicating a gender difference in the natural history of allergy related disorders," the experts add.

"The bottom line is that medical researchers really don't understand what causes children to develop allergies and what can be done to prevent them," they write.

Smidesang, I. et al. Allergy related disorders among 2-yrs olds in a general population. The PACT Study. Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, published online December 9, 2009.

Tags: Allergies & Asthma | Child Health | Europe | Respiratory

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