BACKGROUND: Although sensitization to indoor allergens is strongly associated with asthma, there are questions as to how this relates to asthma symptoms.
OBJECTIVE: We sought to study the relevance of IgE antibodies to cat and dog allergens in an area in which (1) the climate discourages cockroach, fungal, and mite growth and (2) dander allergens are known to be present in schools and houses without animals.
METHODS: IgE to 8 allergens was tested in 963 sera from a population-based study on 19-year-olds, and associations with asthma symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment were examined. In positive sera IgE to specific cat and dog allergens was also assayed.
RESULTS: IgE specific for animal dander had the highest prevalence and strongest relationship to asthma diagnosis. Furthermore, asthma severity, as judged by the frequency of symptoms and use of treatment, was directly associated with the titer of IgE antibodies to animal dander. Among the 103 subjects who had current asthma at age 19 years, 50 had asthma before age 12 years. Among those 50, the odds ratios for asthma related to any IgE antibodies to animal dander or high-titer IgE antibodies (≥17.5 IU/mL) were 9.2 (95% CI, 4.9-17) and 13 (95% CI, 6.9-25), respectively. In multivariable analysis IgE antibodies to Fel d 1 and Can f 5 were each associated with current asthma.
CONCLUSION: High-titer IgE antibodies to cat and dog allergens were strongly associated with the diagnosis, severity, and persistence of asthma; however, a large proportion of patients with current asthma did not live in a house with a cat or dog.