Background: Occupational airborne exposure is described in relation to asthma, and to rhinitis but less in relation to concomitant rhinitis and asthma, and gender differences are rarely evaluated.
Aim: To study the relationship between occupational airborne exposure and respiratory symptoms, rhinitis and asthma in a population based study, and to evaluate gender differences.
Methods: In 2002-04 three population based adult cohorts from the OLIN (Obstructive Lung disease in Northern Sweden) studies were invited to re-examination; 4036 individuals participated. Data collection was based on structured interview and questionnaire regarding occupational exposure.
Results: Men reported more cough and chronic bronchitis and women more dyspnoea, wheezing, asthma and rhinitis. Exposure to dust was associated with bronchitis symptoms and exposure to chemicals to wheezing and rhinitis. Dust did not increase the risk for any of rhinitis, asthma or concomitant conditions. Chemicals increased the risk (OR,95%CI) for asthma without rhinitis (1.48,1.14-1.94), rhinitis without asthma (1.29,1.09-1.52), and concomitant conditions (1.62,1.36-1.94) when adjusted for gender, age and smoking habits. Corresponding analyses stratified by sex revealed significant risk for asthma without rhinitis and concomitant conditions in women (1.74,1.19-2.54 and 1.74,1.34-2.26), while there was a significant risk of rhinitis without asthma and concomitant conditions in men (1.30,1.05-1.61 and 1.47,1.15-1.88).
Conclusions: Occupational exposure to dust and chemicals are related to different airway symptomatology. Chemicals, but not dust, resulted in higher risk for concomitant asthma and rhinitis as well as each of these conditions.