Atopy among schoolchildren in northern and southern Sweden in relation to pet ownership and early life events

L Bråbäck, N I Kjellman, A Sandin, B Björkstén
Pediatric Allergy and Immunology 2001, 12 (1): 4-10
Studies have suggested a higher prevalence of asthma and allergies in northern, as compared to southern, Scandinavia. The aim of this study was to evaluate regional differences in atopy in relation to pet ownership and certain early life events among schoolchildren (n=2108) aged 10-11 years from Linköping in southern Sweden and Ostersund in northern Sweden. The parents completed a questionnaire, comprising questions on home environment, heredity, socio-economic conditions, and the core questions on symptoms from the International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood. The children were skin-prick tested to eight common inhalant allergens. Information on maternal smoking habits, gestational age, and anthropometric measures were obtained from the Swedish Medical Birth Registry. The prevalence of atopic symptoms and sensitization to pollen were similar in Ostersund and in Linköping. A higher prevalence of sensitization to animal dander among children in Ostersund could be linked to a higher occurrence of pets in the community. Current cat ownership was related to less sensitivity to cat allergen but only in children with an atopic heredity. Ponderal index >30 kg/m3 was related to an increased risk of atopic sensitization, both in Linköping (adjusted odds ratio 2.1; 95% confidence interval 1.1-4.0) and in Ostersund (adjusted odds ratio 2.0; 95% confidence interval 1.1-3.5). Maternal smoking during pregnancy was related to an increased risk of atopic sensitization among children in Linköping, whereas current smoking was associated with a decreased risk of sensitization in Ostersund. In conclusion, we demonstrated that a high occurrence of pets in the community was associated with sensitization, whereas atopic symptoms were essentially unaffected. This study has also suggested an association between body size at birth and atopic sensitization at 10-11 years of age.


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