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J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2003 Jan;111(1):149-54.

Asymptomatic skin sensitization to birch predicts later development of birch pollen allergy in adults: a 3-year follow-up study.

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  • 1Allergy Clinic, National University Hospital, Copenhagen, Denmark.



The skin prick test is the allergologic test of choice, but asymptomatic skin sensitization to aeroallergens is common. However, no data in the literature describe the clinical phenotype of asymptomatic sensitized adults.


The purposes of this investigation were to provide a clinical characterization of skin test-positive subjects without symptoms and to ascertain the predictive values of common allergologic tests.


Asymptomatic adults with positive skin prick test results for birch (n = 15), nonatopic control subjects (n = 25), and birch pollen-allergic patients (n = 6) were followed through use of daily diary cards during 3 consecutive birch pollen seasons. At inclusion and at the 3-year follow-up visit, conjunctival and nasal challenges, intradermal late-phase reaction evaluation, and measurement of specific IgE were performed.


Asymptomatic sensitized subjects defined a clinically significant phenotype between nonatopic and allergic subjects in terms of specific IgE levels and susceptibility to conjunctival provocation testing. Sixty percent (n = 9) of the asymptomatic sensitized subjects developed clinical allergy. This was associated with an initial birch skin prick test weal diameter of > or =4 mm, a positive conjunctival provocation test result, and specific IgE of > or =CAP class 2, as well as with the presence of other allergies. Specific IgE of > or =CAP class 2 was 87.5% predictive for allergy development, whereas a negative conjunctival provocation test result was 100% negatively predictive. Nasal provocation testing possessed no additional prognostic information. No changes in clinical phenotype were seen in nonatopic or birch-allergic subjects.


Asymptomatic skin sensitization is a risk factor for later allergy development. At risk is any subject with target organ sensitivity, an elevated specific IgE level, and/or a skin prick test weal diameter of >4 mm.

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