Background: In an earlier study it has been found that allergic symptoms and sensitization in adults were more frequent in Hamburg (northern part of West Germany) compared to Erfurt (East Germany). The purpose of this study was to replicate these findings using data from Augsburg, a city from the southern part of West Germany. Furthermore the study population in this analysis was extended to higher age groups.
Methods: The prevalence of respiratory symptoms, assessed by a self-administered questionnaire, was compared in a random sample of adults, 25-64 years of age, living in Augsburg (n = 1572) and Erfurt (n = 1648). From a subset (n = 754, resp. 1144) specific IgE to common aeroallergens were measured and atopic sensitization was defined as the presence of at least one positive specific IgE (CAP > 0).
Results: The prevalence of allergic rhinitis, wheezing, asthma and atopic sensitization was higher in Augsburg than in Erfurt (OR: 2.0; 1.3; 2.1; 1.7; all p < 0.01). For these differences no specific explanation could be found, i.e. the percentage of sensitized persons was equally increased in Augsburg for asthmatics, patients with hay fever or asymptomatic subjects. Furthermore, sensitization was equally increased for all common allergens. The differences were largest for the youngest age group, but also existed for higher ages.
Conclusions: The increased prevalence of allergies observed in Hamburg, a northern city of West Germany, is also found in Augsburg, a southern city of West Germany, both compared to Erfurt in East Germany. This supports the finding that unspecific causes related to western lifestyle play an important role. Further research is needed to identify the causal influences.