Childhood visits to animal buildings and atopic diseases in adulthood: an age-dependent relationship

Am J Ind Med. 2004 Oct;46(4):349-56. doi: 10.1002/ajim.20000.


Background: Several studies reported protective effects of farming environments against atopic diseases. Therefore, we aimed to establish the relevant timing of exposure in early life.

Methods: A cross-sectional study was carried out in a rural town. Overall, 4,537 inhabitants aged 18-44 years were eligible. Of these, 3,112 (69%) responded to a postal questionnaire on atopic diseases, life-time exposure to farming environments, and potential confounders.

Results: Those with regular childhood exposure to animal buildings had a significantly reduced risk of nasal allergies. The greatest reduction in risk was seen for respondents starting regular visits to animal stables during the 1st year of life or between ages 3 and 5. Participants reporting start of exposure after age 5 remained at a lower risk for nasal allergies (0.70, 0.49-1.01).

Conclusions: The preventive effect of animal buildings' exposure against atopic respiratory diseases continues into adulthood. The magnitude of the effect appears to be age-dependent.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Animal Husbandry
  • Animals
  • Animals, Domestic*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Exposure / prevention & control
  • Female
  • Germany / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / epidemiology
  • Hypersensitivity / etiology*
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires