Background: The ability to mount an IgE response to allergens is a prerequisite for the development of positive allergen skin tests. Histamine is commonly used as a positive control in skin prick testing and provides a measure of nonspecific skin reactivity, similar to bronchial hyper-responsiveness.
Methods: To determine whether allergen responsiveness, age, gender and season of the year contribute to histamine sensitivity, 620 subjects (502 of them with at least one known sensitizing allergen and the remaining 118 non-allergic controls) were prick-tested with a panel of allergens common in the Northern Italy semi-rural area where the patients lived, and with 10 mg/ml histamine dihydrochloride.
Results: We found higher histamine reactivity in allergic versus control individuals (median value 23.7 versus 19.8 mm2; p=0.0497). Likewise, we found in allergic subjects a correlation between allergen responsiveness in terms of number of positive allergens at skin prick test and sensitivity to histamine (mono- sensitized versus poly-sensitized subjects: p=0.0015). Moreover older age and male sex were associated with a higher response to histamine, also when separately considering allergic subjects (p<0.0001 in both cases: correlation coefficient for age versus histamine reactivity: r=0.3408). The correlation between allergen responsiveness and sensitivity to histamine was maintained also when statistically balanced for age and sex.
Conclusion: Allergen responsiveness, gender and age allow more accurate prediction of histamine sensitivity than either parameter alone.