Study: Farm living provides natural immunization to allergens
To save their children from developing shingles and other related diseases later in life, many parents will expose them to children who have developed chicken pox. Once children contact the condition, they rarely develop it again. With this in mind, a new study suggests that similar actions could help insulate children from developing allergies later in life.
Children who grow up on farms are less likely to develop allergies and asthma, according to Creighton University researchers who presented their findings at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI). They speculated that a mother's exposure to large animals during pregnancy, along with her consumption of unpasteurized milk, could help children build an immunity to certain common allergens.
Researchers found that the asthma rate among children who grew up in Amish communities in the United States to be about 5 percent, while about 0.6 percent developed hay fever symptoms. Those figures were 6.7 percent and 3.1 percent, respectively, for Swiss children who lived on farms, which is significantly lower than the approximately 11 percent each of Swiss non-farm youth residents who developed asthma and hay fever.
"The prevalence of asthma, hay fever and allergic sensitization in the Amish population is substantially lower than among Swiss farm children and lower than in most population studies," researchers said in the study. "Traditional farm exposures and large family size may account for this impressive protective effect."
While parents may not want to deliberately subject their children to well-known irritants, they will probably not shy away from allowing their children to enjoy the outdoors out of a fear of exposing them to allergens that could harm them. After all, parents can always create allergen-free environments in their home by using a HEPA air purifier and by giving their children allergy medications prescribed by a doctor.