Study objective: To measure the prevalence of allergic rhinitis, atopy, and asthma among grape farmers, and to compare the respiratory and atopic status in grape farmers with those of nonexposed control subjects.
Design: Cross-sectional study.
Setting: Malevisi region in northern Crete, Greece.
Subjects and methods: One hundred twenty grape farmers and 100 control subjects living in the Malevisi region were examined. The protocol comprised a questionnaire, skin prick tests for 16 common allergens, measurement of specific IgE antibodies against 8 allergens, and spirometry before and after bronchodilation.
Results: Grape farmers were found to have an excess of respiratory symptoms. The comparison with the control group, after adjusting for age, sex, and smoking status, showed that the differences were statistically significant for rhinorrhea (odds ratio [OR], 2.7; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.5 to 5.1; p < 0.001), sneezing (OR, 2.2; 95% CI, 1.2 to 4.0; p < 0.01), and nasal itching (OR, 1.9; 95% CI, 1.0 to 3.6; p < 0.05), but were nonsignificant for asthma-related symptoms. In the multiple logistic regression model, grape farmers were found to have increased work-related symptoms, such as sneezing (OR, 2.9; 95% CI, 1.3 to 6.6; p < 01), rhinorrhea (OR, 2.9; 95% CI, 1.3 to 6.6; p < 0.01), cough (OR, 3.7; 95% CI, 1.2 to 11.4; p < 0.05), and dyspnea (OR, 3.8; 95% CI, 1.1 to 1.3; p < 0.05). The prevalence of allergic rhinitis was 40.8% in grape farmers and 26% in control subjects (OR, 2.0; 95% CI, 1.1 to 3.5; p < 0.02). Increased but statistically nonsignificant values of asthma prevalence were found in grape farmers (6.7%) compared with the control group (2.0%). The prevalence of atopy was 64.2% in grape farmers and 38.0% in the control group (OR, 2.2; 95% CI, 1.2 to 3.5; p < 0.01). Mean FEV1 was significantly lower in grape farmers than in control subjects (p < 0.05), after adjusting for age, sex, and smoking status. Bronchial obstruction was reversible in 23 grape farmers (19.2%) and in 6 control subjects (6%; p < 0.01).
Conclusions: The study mainly demonstrated the high prevalence of allergic rhinitis and work-related respiratory symptoms in grape farmers compared to control subjects. It also suggested that grape farming is possibly associated with increased allergic sensitization to specific pollens, low baseline FEV1, and increased bronchial hyper-responsiveness. Further studies are needed to determine the potential risk factors for these disorders among the farming population.