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Prevalence and incidence of respiratory symptoms in relation to indoor dampness: the RHINE study
  1. M I Gunnbjörnsdóttir1,
  2. K A Franklin4,
  3. D Norbäck8,
  4. E Björnsson3,
  5. D Gislason3,
  6. E Lindberg1,
  7. C Svanes2,
  8. E Omenaas2,
  9. E Norrman4,
  10. R Jõgi6,
  11. E J Jensen7,
  12. A Dahlman-Höglund5,
  13. C Janson1,
  14. on behalf of the RHINE Study Group
  1. 1Department of Medical Sciences: Respiratory Medicine and Allergology, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden
  2. 2Department of Thoracic Medicine and Centre for Clinical Research, Haukeland University Hospital, Bergen, Norway
  3. 3Department of Allergy and Respiratory Medicine, Landspitali University Hospital, Reykjavik, Iceland
  4. 4Department of Pulmonary Medicine and Allergology, University Hospital of Northern Sweden, Umeå, Sweden
  5. 5Section of Occupational and Environmental Medicine and Section of Allergology, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, Göteborg, Sweden
  6. 6Foundation Tartu University Clinics, Lung Clinic, Tartu, Estonia
  7. 7Department of Respiratory Diseases, University Hospital of Aarhus, Aarhus, Denmark
  8. 8Department of Medical Sciences: Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Uppsala University, Uppsala Sweden
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr M I Gunnbjörnsdóttir
    Department of Medical Sciences: Respiratory Medicine and Allergology, Akademiska Sjukhuset, SE 751 85 Uppsala, Sweden; maria.gunnbjornsdottir{at}


Background: An association between indoor dampness and respiratory symptoms has been reported, but dampness as a risk factor for the onset or remission of respiratory symptoms and asthma is not well documented.

Method: This follow up study included 16 190 subjects from Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Estonia who had participated in the European Community Respiratory Health Survey (ECRHS I). Eight years later the same subjects answered a postal questionnaire that included questions on respiratory symptoms and indicators of indoor dampness.

Results: Subjects living in damp housing (18%) had a significantly (p<0.001) higher prevalence of wheeze (19.1% v 26.0%), nocturnal breathlessness (4.4% v 8.4%), nocturnal cough (27.2% v 36.5%), productive cough (16.6% v 22.3%) and asthma (6.0% v 7.7%). These associations remained significant after adjusting for possible confounders. Indoor dampness was a risk factor for onset of respiratory symptoms but not for asthma onset in the longitudinal analysis (OR 1.13, 95% CI 0.92 to 1.40). Remission of nocturnal symptoms was less common in damp homes (OR 0.84, 95% CI 0.73 to 0.97).

Conclusions: Subjects living in damp housing had a higher prevalence of respiratory symptoms and asthma. Onset of respiratory symptoms was more common and remission of nocturnal respiratory symptoms was less common in subjects living in damp housing.

  • epidemiology
  • prevalence
  • respiratory symptoms
  • asthma
  • dampness
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  • Published Online First 5 January 2006

  • The study received financial support from the Icelandic Research Council, the Swedish Heart and Lung Foundation, the Vårdal Foundation for Health Care and Allergic Research, the Swedish Association Against Asthma and Allergy, the Swedish Council for Work Live and Social Research, the Bror Hjerpstedt Foundation, the Norwegian Research Council project 135773/330, the Norwegian Asthma and Allergy Association, The Danish Lung Association and the Estonian Science Foundation, grant 4350.

  • Conflict of interest: none.

  • The RHINE Study Group includes the following participants: E J Jensen (Aarhus); A Gulsvik, B Laerum, E Omenaas, C Svanes (Bergen); A-C Olin, K Torén, A Tunsäter, L Lillienberg (Göteborg); E Björnsson, T Gíslason, D Gíslason, T Blöndal, U S Björnsdottir, K B Jörundsdóttir (Reykjavik); R Jõgi, J Talvik (Tartu), B Forsberg, K Franklin, B Lundbäck, E Norrman, M Söderberg, M-C Ledin (Umeå); G Boman, C Janson, E Lindberg, D Norbäck, G Wieslander, U Spetz-Nyström, G Lund, M I Gunnbjörnsdóttir (Uppsala)

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