The role of indoor allergen exposure in the development of sensitization and asthma

Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol. 2001 Oct;1(5):407-12. doi: 10.1097/01.all.0000011053.76412.14.


The role of indoor allergen exposure in the development of sensitization and asthma remains a subject of controversy. From a number of cross-sectional and longitudinal studies we can conclude that there is a very close association between allergen exposure and the sensitization of an individual. The dose-response relationships seem to differ between allergens; house dust mite and cockroach allergens appear to have a positive linear relationship, whereas cat allergens appear to act quite differently, with maximum sensitization developing at moderate exposure levels. Very low levels of cat allergen exposure are likely to induce no response and very high levels are likely to develop a form of tolerance, with a modified T helper cell type 2 response and the production of IgG4 antibodies and but not IgE. The relationship between indoor allergen exposure and asthma is, however, less clear. The proposed mechanism for the development of disease is that allergen exposure causes sensitization, and continued exposure leads to airway responsiveness and inflammation. As yet, the evidence for allergen exposure being a primary cause of asthma remains weak, and the results of ongoing prospective, randomized allergen avoidance trials are awaited to clarify this issue.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Air Pollution, Indoor / adverse effects*
  • Allergens / adverse effects*
  • Asthma* / etiology
  • Asthma* / immunology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity, Immediate* / etiology
  • Hypersensitivity, Immediate* / immunology
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn


  • Allergens