Asthma increase among farmers: a 12-year follow-up
Respiratory disease is a well known health hazard for farmers, but the long-term prognosis is less well known. This is a 12-year follow-up of an investigation of Swedish farmers, most of them dairy farmers. A questionnaire was mailed to all 418 farmers who were alive of the farmers originally participating in 1982. They were invited to an interview, spirometry, and blood sampling. Ninety-one per cent (380) of the farmers, 321 men and 59 women, responded to the questionnaire. The mean age was 56 years for the men and 55 years for the women. Of the group, 10% were smokers, 25% ex-smokers, and 65% had never smoked. The population estimate for asthma in the farmers was 8.9% in 1994 compared to 2% in 1982, and to 5.4%–6.6% in the general population in the region in 1982. Of the asthmatic subjects, one-third had positive RAST tests (radioallergosorbent tests). Almost 90% of the new onset asthma cases since 1982 had non-IgE-mediated asthma. Most of the IgE-mediated asthmatics had had symptoms for many years, while 70% of the non-IgE-mediated asthmatic farmers had no or only wheezing with colds 1982. Two new cases of hypersensitivity pneumonitis were identified, and 7.3% had experienced inhalation fever during the last 12 years. In general, individuals with asthma and chronic bronchitis who had left farming were in better health in 1994 as compared to 1982. In conclusion, farmers have an enhanced risk to develop asthma increasing with age. Asthma in farmers is often non-IgE-mediated.
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