Results from a US study suggest that there is no significant difference in allergic sensitization rates between younger and older patients with asthma.
The findings, published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, do not support the traditionally-held view that allergic sensitization is much less common in older than younger patients with asthma.
"Physicians providing care for older patients with asthma should consider testing for allergic sensitization and counseling about environmental control practices, particularly among those with poorly controlled asthma," suggest Paula Busse (Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York) and colleagues.
The researchers studied data on 151 adults with current doctor-diagnosed asthma who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2005-2006.
Rates of allergic sensitization, based on the presence of serum immunoglobulin E to at least one of 19 allergens, were compared between patients aged 20-40 years (n=108) and those aged 55 years or older (n=43). The two groups were comparable in terms of gender, race/ethnicity, and educational level.
The team found that the prevalence of allergic sensitization among patients aged 20-40 years was 75.4%, compared with 65.2% in those aged 55 years or older - a non-significant difference.
Furthermore, the allergic sensitization rate in patients aged 55 years or older who developed asthma before the age of 40 years (n=12) did not differ significantly from that in those who developed asthma after the age of 40 years (n=31), at 72.0 % and 62.8%, respectively.
The researchers also found that associations between allergic sensitization and markers of asthma control did not significantly differ between the two age groups.
Busse et all conclude: "Our study of the NHANES 2005-2006 database suggests that allergic sensitization in older patients with asthma is not uncommon and may differ only slightly from patients 20 to 40 years of age."
They add: "We believe that our study is an initial first step in understanding allergic sensitization in older patients with asthma and should be addressed in future work."
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