Aim: It has been suggested that living on a farm decreases the risk of childhood allergy, especially if farming involves livestock. The aim of this study was to examine the association between farming and allergy in children, and the influence of atopic heredity in this association. Methods: The cross-sectional data of the 7981 children aged 13-14 y who participated in the Finnish ISAAC study between the years 1994 and 1995 were used to evaluate the association between farming and allergy. Results: Living on a farm was associated with a decreased risk of current symptoms of allergic rhinoconjunctivitis among all children (aOR 0.79; 95% CI 0.63,0.99), and with a decreased risk of hay fever, especially among those children with a parental history of hay fever (aOR 0.60; 95% CI 0.40-0.89, p= 0.072 for interaction). The children of farmers with a history of hay fever also had a decreased risk of current wheeze (aOR 0.38; 95% CI 0.12-1.24, p= 0.040 for interaction). No significant association was found between farming and either asthma or eczema. Children living on a farm with livestock had the lowest risk of allergic rhinoconjunctiviti s (aOR 0.69), followed by those living on a farm without livestock (aOR 0.89) compared with the non-farming children (p-value for trend 0.024).
Conclusion: Our results support the recent findings on a decreased risk of allergy among the children living on farms. A possible differential effect of parental history of hay fever on the relation of farming environment and the risk of allergic symptoms warrant further investigation.