Purpose: Despite the high and increasing prevalence of allergic diseases in athletes, allergy diagnostics is not part of the routine medical examination in sports medicine. This study reports the development and validation of an easy and reliable questionnaire for screening allergy in athletes.
Methods: AQUA© was derived from the European Community Respiratory Health Survey Questionnaire. On the basis of open interviews with team doctors, coaches, and athletes, questions were added about: the type, duration, and intensity of training; exercise-related allergic and infectious symptoms; social habits (smoking); drug and food supplements intake; antidoping regulations. The final version of the questionnaire, made of 25 selected questions, was validated in 128 professional soccer players who underwent accurate history taking, medical examination, skin prick testing, and/or specific IgE determination. On the basis of the correlation with objective allergy (positive skin tests to at least one allergen), questions were scored from 1 to 5 according to their positive likelihood ratio.
Results: Skin tests (gold standard for validation) were positive in 46.8% of soccer players. Mean total AQUA© score was 9.4 ± 7.8 in allergic athletes versus 1.3 ± 2.3 in nonallergic athletes. A total AQUA© score of ≥5 was shown to have the best positive predictive value for allergy (0.94) with a specificity of 97.1% and a sensitivity of 58.3%.
Conclusions: AQUA©, produced in 10 European languages, is a validated, easy, and reliable tool for calling attention on the high prevalence of allergy in athletes.