Allergy Sensitivity in the United States

When your child was enrolled in the WIND Study we took a blood sample to test for immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies, among other laboratory tests. The presence of an IgE antibody to a specific allergen (such as grass, milk, peanuts) means a child is sensitive to that allergen and may (or may not) develop clinical allergy symptoms later on in life. In other words, being sensitive to an allergen is not the same as having an allergy to a food or environmental trigger.

A new study published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology looked at patterns of allergy sensitivity across the U.S. Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2005-2006, researchers looked at participants’ characteristics and their IgE levels to different kinds of allergens.

Here are a few key findings:

  • While the types and levels of allergy sensitivity vary by region, overall sensitivity levels do not differ across regions, except in early childhood.
  • 36% of children between the ages of 1-5 years and 45% of adults and children over age 6 are sensitive to at least 1 allergen.
  • Milk and egg sensitivity are most common in children aged 1-5 years but these sensitivities decrease after age 6.
  • Outdoor allergen sensitivities are highest in the West, while indoor allergen sensitivities are most common in the South.

For more information, check out The New York Times’ article. This study examined sensitivity to allergens in participants aged 1 year and older. At the WIND Study, we are looking at allergy sensitivity (using IgE) in children aged < 1 year. It will be interesting to see how our data compare to the data from older children.

Salo PM, Arbes SJ, et al. Prevalence of allergic sensitization in the United States: Results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2005-2006. J Allergy Clin Immunol Published online Feb 9 2014.