The new findings published in the August issue of the Journal
of Allergy and Clinical Immunology were conducted by researchers
at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS)
and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases,
both components of the National Institutes of Health.
Allergic Reaction May Mean Increased Risk for Asthma, Hey Fever,
A positive skin test result may mean the individual is more vulnerable
to asthma, hay fever, and eczema. “Asthma is one of the world’s
most significant chronic health conditions,” said David A.
Schwartz, MD, the NIEHS Director. “Understanding what may
account for the rising worldwide asthma rates will allow us to
develop more effective prevention and treatment approaches.”
NHANES III is a nationally representative survey conducted by
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention between 1988-1994
to determine the health and nutritional status of the U.S. population.
About 10,500 people participated in the skin testing. During these
tests, skin was exposed to allergy-causing substances (allergens)
and a positive test was determined by the size of the reaction
on the skin. The 10 allergens tested include: Dust mite, german
cockroach, cat, perennial rye, short ragweed, Bermuda grass, Russian
thistle, White oak, Alternia alternata, and peanuts.
Researchers also compared skin test responses between NHANES III
and the previous survey, NHANES II, conducted from 1976-1980. The
prevalence of a positive skin test response was much higher in
NHANES III than in NHANES II.
According to the lead author, Samuel J. Arbes, Ph.D. of NIEHS, “An
increase in prevalence is consistent with reports from other countries
and coincides with an increase in asthma cases during that time.” In
the U.S., the prevalence of asthma increased 73.9% from 1980 to
1996. However, Dr. Arbes was quick to point out that differences
in skin test procedures between the two surveys prevent the authors
from definitively concluding that the prevalence of skin test positivity
has increased in the U.S. population.
“There is still much we don’t understand about why
some people become sensitized to allergens and others do not,” said
Darryl C. Zeldin, MD, senior author on the paper. “Much more
research is needed in order for us to understand the complex relationships
between exposures to allergens, the development of allergic sensitization,
and the onset and exacerbation of allergic diseases such as asthma.”