A huge study involving 14 million blood tests appears to contradict previous studies which suggest women are more likely to have an allergy than men. This one showed that men exhibit higher sensitivity to 11 common allergens. The Quest Diagnostics Health Trends Report – Allergies Across America – by Quest Diagnostics, suggests that perhaps males require different reporting standards when using blood tests to evaluate for allergies.

The ImmunoCAP® specific IgE (Immunoglobulin E) blood tests detect 11 common allergens people might be susceptible to, including ragweed, mold, two dust mites, dog dander, cat epithelia (skin), and five different foods (egg white, milk, peanut, soybean, and wheat). When an allergen is present our body produces IgE, an antibody. If blood IgE levels are high in the presence of an allergen, it is an indication the individual may have an allergy. Doctors use the blood test, along with symptom evaluation, the patient’s medical history and some other factors before diagnosing an allergy.

Surya N. Mohapatra, Ph.D. chairman and chief executive officer, Quest Diagnostics, said:

“This landmark report, based on testing of patients in every state of the country and the District of Columbia, underscores that allergies are a major public health concern, and that gender, age and region influence their impact on the health of Americans.”

The authors reported that the IgE allergen sensitization rate for the 11 allergens evaluated in the blood tests was about 10% higher for adult males than adult females overall (all age groups). The results in this study challenge previous ones, including a meta-analysis of 591 studies which showed that approximately 65% of adults with allergies were women.

Study researchers, Stanley J. Naides, M.D., medical director, Immunology, Quest Diagnostics, said:

“Our study suggests that allergies in men may not be less prevalent than in women, as suggested by other research, and men may be at risk for underdiagnoses of allergies. Additional research will determine whether men truly are at greater allergy risk or simply experience higher sensitization rates as a result of their gender, a finding which could affect physicians’ interpretation of increasingly used IgE blood tests.”

The authors wrote that IgE blood testing has become increasingly common in doctors’ practices.

According to AAFF (Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America), 51% of individuals experiencing allergies symptoms admitted in a survey that they had misdiagnosed their sinusitis as allergies.

Study investigator Harvey W. Kaufman, M.D., senior medical director, Quest Diagnostics, said:

“As our study and the recent survey by AAFA demonstrates, physicians and patients should exercise caution in concluding an allergy exists based on allergy-associated symptoms. We suspect that some people assume their runny nose, coughing and other symptoms are due to allergies, when this may not be the case. Appropriate evaluation by a physician may reveal another medical condition which, if accurately diagnosed, may be treatable.”

“Allergies Across America” (PDF)

Written by Christian Nordqvist