Prevalence of rhinitis, pillow type and past and present ownership of furred pets

Authors

  • FROSH,

    1. Department of Otolaryngology, West Middlesex Hospital, Isleworth, Middlesex and the Department of Public Health Sciences, St George's Medical School, London, UK
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  • SANDHU,

    1. Department of Otolaryngology, West Middlesex Hospital, Isleworth, Middlesex and the Department of Public Health Sciences, St George's Medical School, London, UK
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  • JOYCE,

    1. Department of Otolaryngology, West Middlesex Hospital, Isleworth, Middlesex and the Department of Public Health Sciences, St George's Medical School, London, UK
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  • STRACHAN

    1. Department of Otolaryngology, West Middlesex Hospital, Isleworth, Middlesex and the Department of Public Health Sciences, St George's Medical School, London, UK
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A. Frosh Charing Cross Hospital, Fulham Palace Road, London SW6, UK.

Abstract

Background

There has been no previous work investigating the effects of furred pet ownership and pillow type on the risk of developing rhinitis. Recently, unexpected and unexplained associations of asthma with nonfeather pillows have been reported.

Objective

We developed a questionnaire-based cross-sectional survey to determine whether the past or present ownership of cats or dogs, or the use of nonfeather pillows contributes to the development of seasonal or perennial rhinitis.

Methods

We surveyed 2555 accompanying friends and relatives of patients attending the outpatients departments at one London hospital in 1996. Individuals with rhinitis were defined as those suffering with three or more symptoms of rhinitis either throughout the year (perennial) or for part of the year (seasonal). Present or childhood ownership of cats or dogs was recorded.

Results

A strong association was seen with nonfeather pillow use and both seasonal [odds ratio (OR) 1.85; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.43–2.5] and perennial (OR 2.63; CI 1.67–5.0) rhinitis. However, more than one-third of rhinitics had changed their pillow type. After restricting the data to exclude subjects who changed their pillow to avoid allergies, the strong association of nonfeather pillow use with perennial rhinitis remained (OR 2.44; CI 1.25–5.0). Adjusting the data to the extreme situation where all former pillow type was feather changes the apparent risk to 0.99 (CI 0.67–1.43). No associations for either seasonal or perennial rhinitis were seen for feather pillows. A weak association of current dog ownership is demonstrated for seasonal rhinitis (OR 1.47; CI 1.01–2.14). No associations were seen for childhood dog ownership or cat ownership at any time with either type of rhinitis.

Conclusions

Feather pillow use and the ownership of furred pets appears unlikely to increase the risk of developing perennial or seasonal rhinitis. In fact, in contrast with currently held views, there is evidence that the use of nonfeather pillows may increase the risk.

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