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Clin Exp Allergy. 2002 Feb;32(2):247-53.

Low prevalence of atopy in young Danish farmers and farming students born and raised on a farm.

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  • 1Institute for Risk Assessment Sciences (IRAS), Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Recent studies have shown that in several countries atopic sensitization to common allergens (common atopy) and atopic symptoms are markedly less prevalent in children living on a farm, compared with non-farm children living in the same rural areas. Living conditions on farms may, however, vary largely between different countries. It is also not yet known whether the "protective" effect of a farm environment can also be found in adults.

MATERIALS AND METHODS:

Common atopy and respiratory health were assessed by skin prick tests (SPT), questionnaire and measurement of bronchial hyper-responsiveness (BHR) in the Sund Stald (SUS) study, a cohort study on respiratory health in Danish farming students and conscripts from the same rural areas as controls. Results of SPT were confirmed by IgE serology in all SPT+ subjects and a subset of SPT- subjects. Prevalences of common atopy, respiratory symptoms and bronchial hyper- responsiveness were compared for farmers and controls, and for those who had or had not lived on a farm in early childhood.

RESULTS:

In multiple logistic regression analyses adjusting for ever smoking and a familial history of allergy, both being a farmer (ORs 0.62-0.75) and having had a farm childhood (ORs 0.55-0.75) appeared to contribute independently to a lower risk of sensitization to common allergens as assessed by SPT and IgE serology. A farm childhood was also inversely associated with high total IgE (OR 0.68), presence of respiratory symptoms (ORs 0.69-0.79) and BHR (OR 0.61) in these analyses. Direction and strength of the association between being a farmer and respiratory symptoms or BHR varied widely (ORs 0.69-1.28).

CONCLUSION:

The "anti-atopy" protective effect of a farm childhood could be confirmed in Danish farming students: prevalences of positive SPT, specific and total IgE, allergic symptoms and BHR were lower in those being born or raised on a farm. Past exposure to the farm environment in early childhood may therefore also contribute to a lower risk of atopic sensitization and disease at a later age.

PMID:
11929489
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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