Environmental factors were examined as determinants of clinical disease in a five year prospective study of 73 children born to atopic parents. Clinical follow up for evidence of eczema and wheezing was combined with regular skin testing, immunoglobulin assay, and respiratory viral culture where appropriate. Thirty six children developed eczema, which was often associated with a positive result of a skin test to ingestants in the first year and inhalants by the fifth year. Thirty two children developed one or more episodes of wheeze. Fifteen children wheezed once only, and not all of these developed atopy. No pattern of respiratory infection in early life was characteristic of children with recurrent wheeze. There was a significant difference in parental smoking habits between children with and without episodes of wheeze at the fifth birthday. No protective effect of breast feeding could be shown. The development of allergic disease in susceptible children is influenced by many environmental factors. Advice to families about reduction of environmental allergens continues to pose problems, but parents should be advised to avoid smoking in the child's presence.
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