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Respir Med. 2009 Mar;103(3):414-20. doi: 10.1016/j.rmed.2008.09.017. Epub 2008 Nov 8.

Horse allergens: An underestimated risk for allergic sensitization in an urban atopic population without occupational exposure.

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  • 1Department of Chest Diseases, High Speciality "A.Cardarelli" Hospital, Naples, Italy.



Data on allergic sensitization to horse allergen in modern urban areas are scarce. The aim of this study was to investigate the characteristics of allergic sensitization and the modality of exposure to horse allergens in atopic patients living in an urban area and without occupational exposure to horse and/or horse-derived materials.


From among 1822 consecutive outpatients, we selected all subjects who had an immediate skin reaction to horse dander. We recorded the patients' clinical history including a meticulous evaluation of the possibility and eventual modality of horse exposure, and the results of skin-prick tests (SPT) and total/specific IgE antibody analyses.


Of 1201 SPT-positive patients, 35 (3.43%) were sensitized to horse dander. No patient was mono-sensitized. Six individuals reported having direct horse contact, 10 subjects had occasional contact with horse owners (indirect exposure), and 19 denied direct or indirect exposure to horses or horse allergens. Twenty of the 35 horse-sensitized patients reported both nasal and bronchial symptoms, 14 had rhinitis without asthma and one had asthma without rhinitis.


Our results suggest that allergic sensitization to horse allergens is more frequent than expected in urban-dwelling subjects without direct or occupational exposure to horses. Highly atopic individuals or individuals who are sensitized to common pet dander should undergo SPT and evaluation of serum specific IgE before starting activities involving regular contact with horses such as riding, and before entering environments associated with horses.

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