Background: Several longitudinal studies report that allergic sensitization increases with age from childhood to adulthood.
Objective: To evaluate whether an age-dependent tendency to become sensitized to new classes of allergens is present in atopic children, we studied retrospectively the changes in allergic sensitization in 165 asthmatic patients, monosensitized (ie, sensitized to only one class of allergens) in the first survey.
Methods: All the children (18 months to 8 years at enrollment), attended our outpatient clinics twice, at time intervals ranging from 2 to 10 years. On each visit, sensitization to house dust mites, pollens, animal danders, and molds was determined by skin prick test.
Results: We found that 43.6% (n = 72) of the patients became polysensitized on the second survey. According to age on first survey, the patients were further divided into two age groups: (1) group 1 = 18 months to < 5 years old (n = 98) and (2) group 2 = 5 to 8 years (n = 67). The transition from monosensitization to polysensitization observed in the entire population was present in both groups: 47 (47.9%) of the 98 children in group 1 and 25 (37.3%) of the 67 children in group 2 showed to be sensitized to more classes of allergens, as compared with first survey. Both in the whole population and in the two age subgroups, the changes in the frequency of monosensitization between the two evaluations were time-dependent (P < .05, each Chi(2)). Finally, to investigate whether monosensitization to a specific class of allergens could favor the development of polysensitization, we evaluated the frequency of polysensitization in the second survey in patients originally monosensitized to house dust mites or to pollens. We found that of the 130 patients originally monosensitized to house dust mites, 59 became polysensitized (45.4%), while of the 28 patients originally monosensitized to pollens, 9 became polysensitized (32.1%) (P > . 1). Similar results were obtained when patients were divided into age groups.
Conclusion: These data demonstrate that (1) monosensitized children are likely to become polysensitized and (2) house dust mite sensitization and, at a lower degree, pollen sensitization, apparently seem to play a "triggering" role in the development of polysensitization, since a high proportion of children originally monosensitized to house dust mites or to pollens became polysensitized.