There has been more research for asthma and less for nasal allergies (also known as allergic rhinitis), eczema and food allergies regarding risk factors. Both asthma and allergic rhinitis have increased significantly during the 20th century which is thought to be due to several factors including multiple genetic and environmental components and interactions. Some of the more recent studies have estimated that up to 40% of children will have allergic rhinitis, but the percentage decreases as you become older. Proposed risk factors for allergic rhinitis include family history of allergies and exposure to indoor allergens (for example, dust mites) among several others. Determining risk factors and how strong a risk factor may contribute to allergic rhinitis can be quite difficult; however, a recent study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology attempted to shed some light on this issue.
This study looked at several factors that could contribute to developing allergic rhinitis with the goal of determining a predictive model. The items listed below were identified as risk factors for developing new allergies in children who did not already have nasal allergies:
• High socioeconomic status
• Parental history of asthma
• Not exclusively breast feeding for < 2 months
• Positive skin tests to indoor allergens
• Positive skin tests to outdoor allergens
Having a positive skin test to outdoor allergens before having symptoms of nasal allergies was the most significant and important risk factor. In addition, children with all of the above risk factors had an approximately one hundred times higher estimated risk for developing allergic rhinitis.
Although one cannot say with 100% certainty who will develop allergies, this study helps physicians determine who is most likely to develop allergies as they grow older. If a child has several of these risk factors, their primary care physician will be more on the look-out for the tell-tale signs and will be more likely to advise an evaluation by a certified allergist. Allergists will also use the information provided by this study and may suggest simple skin testing to help determine the appropriate diagnosis and guide proper treatment. Our allergists here at Atlanta ENT, Sinus and Allergy are readily available to help you and your child determine the correct diagnosis and provide optimal management - so feel free to give us a call.