Questionnaire assessment of airway disease symptoms in equine barn personnel

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Abstract

Background

People working in cattle, swine and poultry barns have a higher prevalence of respiratory symptoms and decreased lung function. There is scant evidence regarding the respiratory health of humans working in horse barns, although it is well documented that stabled horses have a high prevalence of airway disease.

Aims

To determine whether people spending time in horse barns have a higher prevalence of self-reported respiratory symptoms than non-exposed controls.

Methods

A cross-sectional questionnaire study was conducted from May 2005 to January 2006 to investigate the prevalence of self-reported respiratory symptoms in 82 barn-exposed subjects and 74 control subjects. Logistic regression and the chi-square test were used to analyse the data.

Results

There was a significantly higher prevalence of self-reported respiratory symptoms in the barn-exposed group (50%) versus the control group (15%). Exposure to horse barns, smoking and family history of asthma or allergies was independent risk factors for respiratory symptoms. High exposure to the horse barn yielded a higher odds ratio for self-reported respiratory symptoms (8.9).

Conclusions

Exposure to the equine barn is a risk factor for respiratory symptoms. Investigation of organic dust exposures, lung function and horse dander allergies in the barn-exposed group will be necessary to determine how best to protect the health of this group.

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