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More Than Half of U.S. Population Reacts to Allergens

August 2005

New findings from an ongoing study show that more than half of the people in the United States tested positive to one or more allergens.

NIEHS researchers, including Sam Arbes and Darryl Zeldin, conducted the research as part of a large national study, the third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Of people ages 6-59, 54.3 percent had a positive skin test response to at least one of the 10 allergens tested. The highest prevalence rates were for dust mite, rye, ragweed, and cockroach, with about a quarter of the population testing positive to each allergen. Peanut allergy was the least common, with only 9 percent reacting.

The new findings are published in the August issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

A positive skin test is a known risk factor for asthma, hay fever, and eczema. Approximately 10,500 individuals participated in the skin testing. The 10 allergens tested are: dust mite, German cockroach, cat, perennial rye, short ragweed, Bermuda grass, Russian thistle, White oak, Alternia alternata, and peanuts.

NHANES III is a nationally representative survey conducted between 1988-1994 to determine the health and nutritional status of the U.S. population.

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