Children develop some allergen immunity by spending time outdoors
It may seem counterintuitive to allergy sufferers – and even somewhat masochistic – but new research out of Finland suggests that going outside more often may actually be one way for parents to help their children avoid allergies, asthma and even diabetes.
The study focused on children in Finland, finding that those who lived in cities suffered from more allergies than those who were from wooded or agricultural areas. According to researchers, rural areas contain a greater variety of plant and animal species that are not present in urban areas.
This research could help inform scientists who may remain puzzled about a recent study that found asthma is on the rise across the world. Allergies have seemingly experienced a similar spike this year, due in part to mild winters and early pollination occurring in many parts of the country.
The Finnish researchers theorized that the surge in inflammatory conditions is at least partially attributable to humans spending far less time interacting with the natural environment than they used to. Since many city and suburban dwellers are not exposed to a diverse assortment of microbes occurring naturally in the environment, they may not develop as many natural repellants to certain conditions.
"Urbanization can't be stopped, but perhaps we should take the planning of green spaces in cities more seriously," the University of Helsinki's Ilkka Hanski, who was also the lead author of the study, told the journal Science.
Adults were not analyzed in this study, so they may need to resort to more traditional treatments this allergy season, which can stretch from over-the-counter medications to allergy immunotherapy. Even running a HEPA air purifier in the home can help control allergy symptoms by removing irritants from the living space.