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.