Should atopy be assessed in elderly patients with respiratory symptoms suggestive of asthma?

Expert Rev Respir Med. 2010 Oct;4(5):585-91. doi: 10.1586/ers.10.55.


Aging is associated with modifications of the immune system and this could contribute to a reduced prevalence of allergic disease in the elderly. Atopy has rarely been considered in the clinical assessment of the geriatric respiratory patient. This article is a review of the available literature assessing the impact of age on atopy in the asthmatic patient. In the majority of papers, we found a lower prevalence of atopy in the most advanced ages, both in healthy subjects and in individuals affected by allergic respiratory diseases. No large, longitudinal studies performed in the general population have been conducted to confirm this observation. Although available data seem to favor the decline of allergen sensitization with age, the prevalence of allergic sensitizations in the elderly population with respiratory symptoms is substantial enough to warrant evaluation of the atopic condition. For this reason, the evaluation of the atopic condition in the geriatric patient is recommended. The role of atopy as regards diagnosis, therapy and prognosis of asthma in the elderly is addressed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging* / immunology
  • Allergens / immunology
  • Asthma / diagnosis*
  • Asthma / epidemiology
  • Asthma / immunology
  • Asthma / therapy
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / diagnosis*
  • Hypersensitivity / epidemiology
  • Hypersensitivity / immunology
  • Hypersensitivity / therapy
  • Prevalence
  • Prognosis


  • Allergens