Urban upbringing and childhood respiratory and allergic conditions: A multi-country holistic study

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Objective:We integratively assessed the effect of different indoor and outdoor environmental exposures early in life on respiratory and allergic health conditions among children from (sub-) urban areas.Methods:This study included children participating in four ongoing European birth cohorts located in three different geographical regions: INMA (Spain), LISAplus (Germany), GINIplus (Germany) and BAMSE (Sweden). Wheezing, bronchitis, asthma and allergic rhinitis throughout childhood were assessed using parental-completed questionnaires. We designed “environmental scores” corresponding to different indoor, green- and grey-related exposures (main analysis, a-priori-approach). Cohort-specific associations between these environmental scores and the respiratory health outcomes were assessed using random-effects meta-analyses. In addition, a factor analysis was performed based on the same exposure information used to develop the environmental scores (confirmatory analysis, data-driven-approach).Results:A higher early exposure to the indoor environmental score increased the risk for wheezing and bronchitis within the first year of life (combined adjusted odds ratio: 1.20 [95% confidence interval: 1.13–1.27] and 1.28 [1.18–1.39], respectively). In contrast, there was an inverse association with allergic rhinitis between 6 and 8 years (0.85 [0.79–0.92]). There were no statistically significant associations for the outdoor related environmental scores in relation to any of the health outcomes tested. The factor analysis conducted confirmed these trends.Conclusion:Although a higher exposure to indoor related exposure through occupants was associated with an increased risk for wheezing and bronchitis within the 1st year, it might serve as a preventive mechanism against later childhood allergic respiratory outcomes in urbanized environments through enhanced shared contact with microbial agents.HIGHLIGHTSSuggested higher microbial load indoors was associated with an increased risk of respiratory infections in early childhood.The same exposure was linked to a decreased risk for asthma and allergic rhinitis in later childhood.The assumed biological mechanism might be associated with greater family size.

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