Occupational contact with furry animals, particularly cats, dogs, cattle, horses, mice and rats, but also guinea pigs, hamsters and rabbits, can give rise to allergic reactions.
Although the exposure to allergens at workplaces can be reduced by prevention measures, it is unavoidable at many workplaces, for example when handling animals in veterinary medicine. Occupational exposure to microbial constituents and chemical substances must also be taken into account. Sufficient data are however not available on the level of allergen exposure arising during specific tasks and its significance for the development of sensitization and allergic complaints. Data are also lacking on transfer of the allergens from the workplace to the domestic environment.
Studies clearly show that increasing numbers of children and young people are affected by asthma and hay fever. This also means, that at the beginning of their careers, growing numbers of young people already have an allergic predisposition, i.e. a susceptibility to allergies, and will begin their training or studies in areas that involve an elevated risk of sensitization.
In order to measure and evaluate the influence of allergen exposure upon the development of sensitization and disorders of the respiratory tract and skin, the IPA is conducting a longitudinal study in collaboration with the German Social Accident Insurance Institution for the public sector in Hesse. The study is examining exposure to animal allergens and accompanying components in the complex area of veterinary medicine.
In particular, longitudinal studies of young professionals, apprentices and students in their first semester enable substantial conclusions regarding the risk of occupational diseases of the respiratory tract, since the frequency of work-related complaints peaks in the two to three years after the first allergen exposure. Besides a questionnaire particularly covering the respondent‘s medical history with regard to an allergic predisposition, examinations of pulmonary function and documentation of the skin conditions of the hands, and detection of specific IgE antibodies against relevant allergens, exposure measurements were performed on campus and also in the students‘ domestic environments.
Occupational allergies must be avoided, and concepts developed by which persons suffering from allergies or workers with an allergic predisposition can remain in their professions in the long term without complaints