Background: The European Farmers’ Study has indicated that sheep farmers might be at risk for the development of respiratory symptoms.
Aims: To assess the prevalence of respiratory symptoms in sheep breeders and potential work related risk factors.
Methods: All sheep breeders listed in two regions of South Germany were asked to answer a mailed questionnaire on respiratory symptoms, work related respiratory symptoms (WRS), and details of farming. Overall, 325 sheep breeders keeping at least 10 sheep could be included in the survey (response rate 81.9%). The prevalences were compared to the results of the European Farmers’ Study.
Results: Sheep breeders showed a significantly higher prevalence of asthma related symptoms (prevalence odds ratio (POR) 2.1, 95% CI 1.5 to 3.0), chronic phlegm (POR 4.0, 95% CI 2.8 to 5.9), and WRS (POR 1.7, 95% CI 1.3 to 2.2) after adjusting for age, gender, smoking habits, full time farming, and study centre. In the multiple logistic regression model the risk for asthma related symptoms was doubled in full time farmers (POR 2.3, 95% CI 1.2 to 4.3). The major predictor of WRS was full time farming (POR 1.6, 95% CI 0.93 to 2.7) and the use of chemical footbaths (POR 2.1, 95% CI 1.2 to 3.7).
Conclusions: Sheep breeders might be at high risk for the development of respiratory symptoms. These symptoms may be associated with work intensity and chemical exposure during work. Studies including objective measurements should be performed.
- AIC, Akaike Information Criteria
- ARS, asthma related symptoms
- ODTS, organic dust toxic syndrome
- POR, prevalence odds ratio
- WRS, work related respiratory symptoms
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This paper is part of the work of Christine Winter for her medical doctorate