In a prospective study of 92 children with at least one atopic parent, the development of the specific antibody responses to food and inhalant allergens during the first 5 years of life were assessed. By the radioallergosorbent test egg specific IgE antibody occurred in about 30% of the children with the mean peak concentration at 12 months. By the second year the prevalence of this antibody had increased whereas the mean concentration had decreased. Milk specific IgE antibody could not be shown in any subject, including four whose skin tests yielded positive results. Food specific IgG antibody was noted by antigen binding radioimmunoassays at 3 months in most children. These responses had peaked and began to fall by the fifth year. In contrast few children had detectable IgE or IgG antibody to inhalant allergens before the first 2 years of life. Both the concentration and prevalence of specific antibody, however, increased from the second to the fifth year and was greater in children whose skin tests yielded positive results. Breast feeding was associated with an increase in the prevalence of positive results from skin tests but was not associated with detectable IgE antibody to both food proteins, a lower concentration of IgG antibody to cows' milk, and was not associated with protection against the development of disease. A high level of exposure to dust mite was associated with an increased prevalence of positive results from skin tests to dust mite and appreciably higher antibody concentration. This study indicates differences in the humoral responses to food and inhalant allergens. Environmental factors appear to influence the development of these responses.
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