Objectives: Increased morbidity and mortality in lower airway diseases have been reported among farmers. The aim of this study was to assess upper airway problems in farmers.
Subjects and methods: Twenty-five dairy farmers, 20 pig farmers, 21 grain farmers and 19 control subjects were studied, by use of questionnaire, skin-prick test, dynamic spirometry, nasal inspection, acoustic rhinometry (before and after a decongestant) as well as by determinations of the olfactory threshold and nasal lavage (NAL) concentrations of eosinophil cationic protein (ECP), myeloperoxidase (MPO) and albumin.
Results: Compared with the control group, farmers had more complaints of work-related symptoms from the lower airways, and symptoms of smell impairment, and more often had nasal polyps and hyperaemia of the nasal mucosa. They also had higher levels of MPO in NAL (especially dairy farmers and pig farmers), and a tendency to more swollen nasal mucosa and lower olfactory threshold (especially grain farmers).
Conclusions: The farmers had more pathological findings in their nasal mucosa, possibly indicating effects of allergens and irritants in their work environment. More studies are needed to evaluate work environment factors causing these pathological findings in farmers.