Could growing up on a muddy farm protect you from allergies?

Allergies

Could growing up on a muddy farm protect you from allergies?

The idea that exposure to more dirt and bacteria as an infant could improve your health isn’t new. Just last year, scientists discovered acute lymphoblastic leukemia results from a two-step process including a genetic mutation before birth, and limited exposure to infections in early childhood. Children who grew up in cleaner and more sterile environments during their first year and interacted less with other children were more likely to develop the disease.

Cleaner isn’t always better

This is a common area of research when it comes to allergies. After all, it’s an old wives’ tale that’s been around for years. A recent breakthrough from Finland’s National Institute for Health and Welfare suggested growing up on a farm, where there’s a wide variety of mucky dust, could significantly lower the child’s risk of developing asthma.

New research

In the study, the researchers analysed the microbes in the dust from living room floors in the homes of 197 children living in rural areas of Finland. Half lived on farms and the other half lived in suburban areas. The researchers took dust samples when the children were two months old and likely to be crawling on the floor. When the children reached six years old, the researchers tested how many of the children had developed asthma.

The results

There was a clear difference between the farm children – who came into contact with a huge variety of bacteria, including some from livestock – and the children from more urban areas with a more limited variety of bacteria. The results showed almost 20% of the non-farm home children developed asthma while just 9% of the children who grew up on a farm developed the allergy. The researchers found the same relationship when they replicated the study in 1,031 German children.

These studies contribute to a growing pile of research suggesting early childhood exposure can influence health in later childhood. Future research will probably focus on finding out why such exposure is so beneficial in early development. And, hopefully, it can lead to more effective allergy therapies. For now, we don’t recommend throwing your child in the mud. Let them grow up and monitor any potential allergies. If you see something that worries you, get in touch with your doctor.

London Allergy and Immunology Centre is a leader in providing the best allergy treatments available. We keep up to date with new research to make sure we can continue to transform lives. If you think you may have an allergy, or need more effective treatment, don’t hesitate to book an appointment with one of our consultants or call us on 0203 143 3449.

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