As reliance of responses to epidemiological questionnaires on atopic symptoms is doubtful, we studied the predictive value of these questions relative to atopy, defined by the presence of serum specific IgE, taking into account some extraneous variables such as age and sex. The study population included 2067 adults, 20-60 years old. The protocol consisted of a standardized questionnaire and an evaluation of serum specific IgE using the Phadiatop (Pharmacia Diagnostics, Uppsala, Sweden) test. The predictive value of each symptom suggestive of atopy was quite low, but was much dependent on age and sex. Women more often than men reported atopic symptoms in the absence of atopy. Similarly, the predictive value of each symptom decreased with age. Thus atopic symptoms do not have the same value as predictors of atopy. These findings have both clinical and epidemiological important implications.