The distribution of total serum-IgE and factors of importance for the level of IgE was studied in a random sample of 508 children and adolescents, aged 7-16 years, from Copenhagen. A detailed history about asthma, rhinitis, dermatitis and urticaria was obtained, and a physical examination, skin prick test with 9 common allergens, lung function test, bronchial challenge with inhaled histamine and exercise, and measurement of IgE (kU/l) were performed. The distribution of IgE among children and adolescents was found to exhibit a log normal distribution and a positive skin prick test, allergic symptoms, a family history of allergic diseases, age and smoking were found to be significantly related to an increased level of IgE. No relationship was found between increased bronchial responsiveness and IgE. The geometric mean of "normal" values of IgE (*1 SD and *2 SD) of the Danish children and adolescents was 18 kU/l (*4.7, *18.2), suggesting that normal IgE values were within 330 kU/l. Measurement of IgE as the only screening for allergic disease is unreliable, as the predictive value of an elevated IgE in population samples was found to be 50%, whereas misclassification (1-specificity) of asymptomatic subjects as allergic because of an increased IgE was low (4%). In conclusion, total IgE is highly influenced by allergen skin reactivity. Further, this study suggests that normal IgE values were within 330 kU/l, although the range was wide.