Background: The most likely age of sensitization to fragrance chemicals is unknown.
Objectives: To investigate the frequency of allergy to the 8% fragrance mix (FM) in each decade of life in patients undergoing patch testing for the investigation of skin symptoms.
Methods: Patients (n = 23 846; 14 104 female and 9742 male) underwent patch testing to a standard series between 1 January 1984 and 31 December 1998. All data were recorded on a computerized database.
Results: We found that 8.4% of females and 6.4% of males were allergic to the FM. The frequency of fragrance allergy was low in the first two decades of life (2.5-3.4%). It gradually increased in females after the age of 20 years to peak in the 60s at 14.4% of those tested, with a decline to 11.6% in the 80s. The prevalence in males rose more slowly and peaked at 13.7% in the 70s, declining to 10.8% in the 80s. The youngest patients sensitized were aged 2 years.
Conclusions: These findings support the hypothesis that allergy to fragrance results from a combination of repeated environmental exposure and age-related susceptibility factors.