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Allergy among veterinary medicine students in The Netherlands

Abstract

Background Veterinary medicine students who practice with animals are potentially exposed to many occupational agents, yet sensitisation and allergic symptoms among this group have not been studied extensively.

Objective The objective of this study was to estimate the prevalence of sensitisation and allergic symptoms in veterinary medicine students in association with study specialisation over time.

Methods A questionnaire-based cross-sectional study was conducted. Blood was collected and tested for total and specific serum IgE for 16 different common and study-specific allergens using enzyme immunoassay.

Results New development of self-reported allergic symptoms to various allergens occurred in 8.7%, of which 44% was deducted against animals. Handling farm animals was strongly associated with self-reported allergies to various allergens (OR=6.9, 95% CI 1.9 to 25) and animal allergens (OR=12, 95% CI 1.4 to 103). Sensitisation to at least one allergen occurred in 33.1%. Sensitisation prevalence tended to be elevated in later years of the equine study program. In contrast to self-reported allergies, the prevalence of sensitisation to any allergen decreased with prolonged study duration for those specialising in farm animal health (years 3–5: OR=0.5, 95% CI 0.3 to 1.1; year 6: OR=0.2, 95% CI 0.1 to 0.5). This was independent of whether people were raised on a farm, which is in itself a protective factor for allergy and sensitisation.

Conclusion This study provides evidence of an elevated prevalence of allergic symptoms with increasing years of veterinary study, suggesting that contact with animals, more specifically contact to farm animals, is a risk factor for the development of symptoms.

  • Allergy
  • sensitisation
  • allergic symptoms
  • veterinary medicine students
  • respiratory
  • organic dusts
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