The appearance and course of serum immunoglobulin E-antibodies (IgE-ab) to egg-white (EW), cow's milk (CM) and inhalants (pollen, danders and mite) were followed from birth to 12 years of age in 84 children unselected for family history of atopy. During the follow-up 36 children developed atopic symptoms and 48 children did not. IgE-ab to EW and CM reached a peak prevalence at 8 months of age--with high concentrations almost exclusively in atopics and disappeared successively during childhood. IgE-ab to inhalants appeared from 2 years of age and then in increasing frequency during childhood. Similar to the pattern of IgE-ab to EW and CM, transient low levels of IgE-ab to inhalants were commonly encountered in non-atopic children while high concentrations without tendency to decline were almost exclusively seen in atopics. High responders to EW-antigen during infancy were usually also high responders to inhalants during childhood. Clinical allergy to EW and CM and subsequent tolerance appeared early in childhood, whereas allergy to inhalants appeared later and did not disappear. The temporary low-grade IgE antibody response in non-atopic individuals to eaten and inhaled allergens is similar to the results of animal studies demonstrating a transient IgE production followed by tolerance.