Nasal hyperresponders and atopic subjects report different symptom intensity to air quality: a climate chamber study

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Short-term exposure to dust and dust added with β-(1,3)-d-glucan or aldehydes may cause sensory reactions. In random order, we exposed 36 volunteers in a climate chamber to clean air, office dust, dust with glucan, and dust with aldehydes. Three groups of subjects were exposed, eleven were non-atopic with nasal histamine hyperreactivity, 13 were non-atopic, and 12 were atopic. Subjective ratings of symptoms and general health were registered four times during four 6-h exposure sessions. Six symptom intensity indices were constructed. The nasal hyperreactive group had a high and time-dependent increase of mucous membrane irritations, whereas the atopic group had a low and stable rate of irritations with exposure time, close to the reference group (P = 0.02 for differences between the groups with respect to time under exposure for Weak Inflammatory Responses and P = 0.05 for Irritative Body Perception, significance mainly because of the nasal hyperreactive group). Exposure to dust, with or without glucan or aldehydes, showed increased discomfort measured by the index for Constant Indoor Climate, and dust with glucan had a similar effect for the index for Lower Respiratory Effects. For Psychological and Neurological Effects these were dependent on group affiliation, thus preventing a uniform statement of exposure effects for all three investigated groups.

Practical Implications

Opportunities for identifying persons with high or low sensitivity to low-level exposures are important in preventive medicine and will reduce intra-group variability and thus increase the power of experimental and epidemiological studies searching for correlations between exposures and health effects. The contrast between nasal hyperreactive on one side and atopic and reference subjects on the other side is particularly important. The atopic group indicated a non-homogenous reaction depending on their hyperreactive status, a finding that could be important but needs further confirmation.

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