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Atopy (Greek ατοπία - placelessness) or atopic syndrome is an allergic hypersensitivity affecting parts of the body not in direct contact with the allergen. It may involve eczema (atopic dermatitis), allergic conjunctivitis, allergic rhinitis and asthma. There appears to be a strong hereditary component. One study concludes that "the general risk of developing atopic dermatitis (3%) and atopy (7%) increases by a factor of two with each first-degree family member already suffering from atopy" [1].

Eczema-a typical atopic manifestation

The hereditary component is presumably due to certain genes coding proteins involved in the normal immune response mechanism, i.e., human leukocyte antigen, although environmental factors have also been implicated. Atopic syndrome can be fatal for those who experience serious allergic reactions such as anaphylaxis, brought on by reactions to food or environment.

The individual components are all caused at least in part by allergy (type I hypersensitivity reactions). These responses appear after the body is exposed to various allergens, for example specific kinds of food, pollen, dander or insect venoms. Although atopy has various definitions, most consistently it is defined by the presence of elevated levels of total and allergen-specific IgE in the serum of patient, leading to positive skin-prick tests to common allergens.

The multicenter PARSIFAL study in 2006, involving 6630 children age 5 to 13 in 5 European countries, suggested that restrictive use of antibiotics and antipyretics, are associated with a reduced risk of allergic disease in children.[2]

Some symptoms, from an atopy questionnaire[3]:

Atopic diseases of childhood

The atopic diseases of childhood consist of atopic dermatitis, allergic rhinitis, and asthma.


  1. "A family study of atopic dermatitis". Archives of Dermatological Research. Springer Berlin / Heidelberg. 282 (Number 2 / January, 1990): 98–102. Sunday, December 12, 2004. doi:10.1007/BF00493466. Unknown parameter |coauthors= ignored (help); Check date values in: |accessdate=, |date= (help); |access-date= requires |url= (help)
  2. Flöistrup, H., Swartz, J., Bergström, A., Alm, J. S., Scheynius, A., et al. (2006). Allergic disease and sensitization in Steiner school children. The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 117(1), 59-66. PMID 16387585 Reprint copy
  3. Template:Note labelErlanger Atopy Questionnaire, original site offline, Internet Archive cache, due to be reposted at

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