A longitudinal study of respiratory symptoms in a community population sample. Correlations with smoking, allergen skin-test reactivity, and serum IgE

Chest. 1991 Jan;99(1):20-6. doi: 10.1378/chest.99.1.20.


Chronic cough and/or phlegm, wheeze in the absence of colds, and rhinitis attributed to allergies are three of the most common respiratory symptoms encountered in community populations. In this study, we have determined the prevalence of these complaints in a random population sample (n = 1,109) using standardized questionnaires at two points in time, eight years apart. Cross-sectional prevalence and changes in symptom occurrence have been correlated with smoking status, allergen skin test reactivity, and total serum IgE levels. Our objective was to determine the individual and combined influence of these three variables on symptom prevalence. Initially, 19.2 percent of the population admitted to wheeze, 17.9 percent to cough, and 44.1 percent to allergic rhinitis. Cough and wheeze prevalence changed little over the eight-year period, while rhinitis increased 11 percent by the second survey. The occurrence of chronic cough was strongly correlated with smoking, and was not further influenced by either allergen skin reactivity or IgE level. Conversely, rhinitis prevalence was related to skin test reactivity with no additional association with smoking or IgE level. The occurrence of wheeze in the absence of colds was associated with both smoking and allergen skin reactivity. Among smokers, the prevalence was over 30 percent and was similar in both skin test positive (STP) and skin test negative (STN) individuals. However, on both surveys, STP ex-smokers and nonsmokers had significantly more wheeze than those who were STN. While the prevalence of wheeze in STN nonsmokers was low (6.8 percent), an IgE-wheeze relationship was also suggested on the second survey. In addition to these cross-sectional symptom relationships, changes in either smoking status or allergen skin reactivity during the study period were associated with changes in the prevalence of each symptom.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arizona / epidemiology
  • Cough / epidemiology*
  • Cough / etiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin E / analysis*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Respiratory Sounds / etiology*
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Perennial / epidemiology*
  • Rhinitis, Allergic, Perennial / etiology
  • Skin Tests
  • Smoking / adverse effects*
  • Smoking / epidemiology
  • Time Factors


  • Immunoglobulin E