University of Oulu

Haarala, A.K.; Sinikumpu, S.-P.; Vaaramo, E.; Jokelainen, J.; Timonen, M.; Auvinen, J.; Pekkanen, J.; Huilaja, L. A Childhood Farm Environment Protects from Allergic Sensitization until Middle Age but Not from New-Onset Sensitization in Adulthood: A 15 Year Longitudinal Study. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18, 7078.

A childhood farm environment protects from allergic sensitization until middle age but not from new-onset sensitization in adulthood : a 15 year longitudinal study

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Author: Haarala, Anna Karoliina1; Sinikumpu, Suvi-Päivikki1; Vaaramo, Eeva2;
Organizations: 1Department of Dermatology, University Hospital of Oulu, Finland and Medical Research Center, PEDEGO Research Group, University of Oulu, 90014 Oulu, Finland
2Infrastructure for Population Studies, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oulu, 90014 Oulu, Finland
3Center for Life Course Health Research, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oulu, 90014 Oulu, Finland
4Medical Research Center, Oulu University Hospital, 90220 Oulu, Finland
5Department of Public Health, University of Helsinki, 00014 Helsinki, Finland
6Department of Health Security, Environmental Health, Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, 00271 Kuopio, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 0.8 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, 2021
Publish Date: 2021-10-28


Data are insufficient on the protective effect of a farm environment in childhood regarding sensitization in middle age and new-onset sensitization in adulthood. A skin prick test (SPT) and questionnaire data from the Northern Finland Birth Cohort 1966 study (NFBC66) were used to investigate sensitization at age 46 years related to childhood living environment. A subpopulation of 3409 participants was analyzed to study factors related to new-onset sensitization between ages of 31 and 46 years. Data on complete SPTs were available for 5373 cohort members at age 46. Professional farming by parents (odds ratio (OR) 0.54; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.43–0.68) and keeping of farm animals (OR 0.53; 95% CI 0.43–0.66) in infancy were associated with a lower risk of sensitization at age 46. Sensitization (OR 0.58; 95% CI 0.47–0.72) and polysensitization (OR 0.43; 95% CI 0.32–0.57) were less common in those who lived in a rural area in infancy compared to a city area. The childhood living environment had no effect on new-onset sensitization between ages 31 and 46. We conclude that living on a farm or in a rural environment in childhood had a protective effect on sensitization even in middle age, but these factors did not protect from new-onset sensitization in adults.

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Series: International journal of environmental research and public health
ISSN: 1661-7827
ISSN-E: 1660-4601
ISSN-L: 1661-7827
Volume: 18
Issue: 13
Article number: 7078
DOI: 10.3390/ijerph18137078
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 3142 Public health care science, environmental and occupational health
Funding: This study was supported by the University of Oulu, the Lapland Regional Fund of the Finnish Cultural Foundation and the Finnish Dermatological Society.
Copyright information: © 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (