Epidemiology of acute asthma: IgE antibodies to common inhalant allergens as a risk factor for emergency room visits

J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1989 May;83(5):875-82. doi: 10.1016/0091-6749(89)90100-0.


In recent years the morbidity and mortality of asthma has increased, although the etiology is still poorly understood. Most patients with asthma suffer acute attacks that are commonly treated in hospital emergency rooms (ER). In the present study, asthma in adults was studied with acute attacks as a marker for the disease; 102 patients first observed at a university hospital ER with acute airway obstruction were compared to 118 patients observed at the same ER with any diagnosis other than shortness of breath to evaluate allergy as a risk factor for asthma in adults. Sera were assayed for IgE antibody (Ab) to dust mites, cockroach, cat dander, and grass and ragweed pollen. The results demonstrate that in adults younger than 50 years of age, the prevalence of IgE Abs was fourfold greater among subjects with asthma than among control subjects (46/67 versus 12/81; odds ratio, 10.1; 95% confidence interval, 4.9 to 20.7). The population attributable risk for the presence of IgE Ab to one of the five allergens was greater than 50%. Among individuals older than 50 years of age, the prevalence of serum IgE Abs was not significantly increased among patients with acute airway obstruction. In the whole group, the prevalence of IgE Abs to different allergens demonstrated significant seasonal and socioeconomic differences, suggesting that the associated risk is related to exposure to those allergens. The results establish that, with acute attacks of asthma as a marker for adult asthma, the presence of serum IgE Abs to common inhalant allergens is a major risk factor.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Allergens / immunology*
  • Animals
  • Antigens, Dermatophagoides
  • Asthma / epidemiology*
  • Asthma / immunology
  • Cats / immunology
  • Cockroaches / immunology
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin E / analysis*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Mites / immunology
  • Pollen / immunology
  • Radioallergosorbent Test
  • Risk Factors


  • Allergens
  • Antigens, Dermatophagoides
  • Immunoglobulin E