Does living on a farm during childhood protect against asthma, allergic rhinitis, and atopy in adulthood?

Bénédicte Leynaert*, Catherine Neukirch, Deborah Jarvis, Susan Chinn, Peter Burney, Françoise Neukirch

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

175 Citations (Scopus)


Recent studies of children suggest that factors encountered in a farm environment might protect against the development of allergy. However, it remains uncertain whether living on a farm in childhood is associated with a decreased risk of atopic diseases in adulthood. We analyzed data from 6,251 randomly selected adults 20 to 44 yr of age participating in the European Community Respiratory Health Survey (ECRHS). Subjects answered a detailed questionnaire and underwent specific IgE measurements to five allergens. After adjustment for potential confounders, including pet exposure in childhood, number of siblings, severe respiratory infection in childhood, and parental history of allergy, living on a farm in childhood was associated with a reduced risk of atopic sensitization in adulthood (OR = 0.76, Cl 95% = 0.60-0.97). Compared with other adults, those who had lived on a farm as a child were less frequently sensitized to cat (OR = 0.63, Cl 95% = 0.41-0.96) and to Timothy grass (OR = 0.68, Cl 95% = 0.50-0.94), and were at lower risk of having nasal symptoms in the presence of pollen (OR = 0.80, Cl 95% = 0.64-1.02). The protective effect of farming environment in childhood observed in this population-based sample of young adults provides evidence in favor of the hypothesis that environmental factors encountered in childhood may have a lifelong protective effect against the development of allergy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1829-1834
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine
Issue number10 I
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2001


  • Allergic rhinitis
  • Asthma
  • Epidemiologic studies
  • Farm
  • Immunologic sensitization


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