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Occupational Asthma Reference

DeZotti R, Bovenzi M, Prospective study of work-related respiratory symptoms in trainee bakers, Occup Environ Med, 2000;57:58-61,


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To investigate the occurrence of work related respiratory symptoms and to assess the effect of atopy in a group of trainee bakers.

A prospective study of work related respiratory symptoms among 125 trainee bakers who were investigated with a questionnaire plus skin prick test with wheat flour and alpha-amylase allergens at baseline and then after 6, 18, and 30 months.

At the baseline examination, four students (3.2%) complained of respiratory symptoms (cough and rhinitis) when working with flours and four were skin positive to wheat flour or alpha-amylase. The incidence of work related respiratory symptoms was 3.4% at 6 months, and the cumulative incidence was 4.8% and 9.0% at 18 and 30 months, respectively. The incidence of skin sensitisation to occupational allergens was 4.6% at 6 months and the cumulative incidence was 4.6% at 18 months and 10.1% at 30 months. The generalised estimating equation approach to longitudinal data showed that work related respiratory symptoms in the study population was significantly associated with a personal history of allergic disease (odds ratio (OR) 5.8, 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.8 to 18.2) and skin sensitisation to wheat flour or alpha -amylase (OR 4.3, 95% CI 1.2 to 14.9). Atopy based on prick test was not related to the occurrence of work related respiratory symptoms over time (OR 1.1, 95% CI 0.3 to 3.8).

Personal history of allergic disease is a predisposing factor for the development of symptoms caused by exposure to wheat flour and may be a criterion of unsuitability for starting a career as a baker. Atopy based on the skin prick test is useful for identifying subjects with allergic disease, but should not be used to exclude non-symptomatic atopic people from bakery work.

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