Thorax 56:462-467 doi:10.1136/thorax.56.6.462
  • Original article

Home dampness, current allergic diseases, and respiratory infections among young adults

  1. M Kilpeläinena,
  2. E O Terhoa,
  3. H Heleniusb,
  4. M Koskenvuoc
  1. aDepartment of Pulmonary Diseases and Clinical Allergology, University of Turku, Turku, Finland, bDepartment of Biostatistics, University of Turku, cDepartment of Public Health, University of Turku
  1. Dr M Kilpeläinen, Department of Pulmonary Diseases and Clinical Allergology, Turku University Central Hospital, Kiinamyllynkatu 4-8, FIN-20520 Turku, Finlandmaritta.kilpelainen{at}
  • Received 8 September 2000
  • Revision requested 4 December 2000
  • Revised 24 January 2001
  • Accepted 26 February 2001


BACKGROUND The relation between home dampness and respiratory symptoms among adults is well confirmed, but data on specific allergic diseases and respiratory infections is more limited. Individual factors that may enhance susceptibility to the effects of home dampness are mainly unknown.

METHODS The association between home dampness and current physician diagnosed asthma, allergic rhinitis, allergic conjunctivitis, atopic dermatitis, common colds, and bacterial respiratory infections was studied in a questionnaire survey of 10 667 Finnish first year university students aged 18–25 years. The dampness categories analysed were visible mould and visible mould or damp stains or water damage during the last year. In multivariate analyses adjustment was made for parental education, active and passive smoking, type and place of residence, pets, and wall to wall carpets. The interaction effect of atopic heredity and dampness was investigated.

RESULTS Visible mould or damp stains or water damage was reported by 15.0% of the respondents. In multivariate models there was a positive association between home dampness and current asthma, allergic rhinitis, and atopic dermatitis, as well as common colds ⩾4 times per year and other respiratory infections, but not between home dampness and allergic conjunctivitis. The strongest association was found between exposure to visible mould and asthma (OR 2.21, 95% CI 1.48 to 3.28) and common colds (OR 1.49, 95% CI 1.18 to 1.87). The risk of current asthma in damp homes was highest among subjects with atopic heredity.

CONCLUSIONS The risk of current asthma, allergic rhinitis, and atopic dermatitis was higher in damp homes. Of the respiratory infections, the risk of common colds was most clearly increased.


  • Conflict of interest: none