Children growing on farms less likely to have asthma
Children who grow up on farms are less likely to develop childhood asthma.
The risk of asthma is reduced by as much as 51 percent for children living on farms, and researchers suspect that it's the diversity of exposure to different microbes that may offer protection against the disease.
Asthma is a chronic lung disease that causes inflammation of the airways. This inflammation narrows the airways, making it difficult to breathe.
Previous studies have also found that exposure to a variety of microbes in the environment, such as bacteria or fungi, appear to provide protection against asthma, perhaps by helping the body create a tolerance for allergens.
Researchers assessed the occurrence of asthma in children living on farms compared to children without farm exposure in two different groups of youngsters. The researchers also tested dust samples from the children's bedrooms and mattresses to get an idea of what type of microbes the children were regularly exposed to. The first group of children included 6,843 rural and suburban elementary school children from southern Germany. This study also included dust samples from 489 children's mattresses. The second study included 9,668 elementary school children from rural areas of Austria, South Germany and Switzerland. Dust samples were collected from 444 children's bedrooms in this study.
It was found that house dust from farm homes had a greater variety of bacteria and fungi, a finding that was statistically related to a lower rate of asthma. In both study populations, youngsters who lived on farms had lower rates of asthma and allergies. In the first group, the risk of asthma was reduced by 51 percent in children living on farms. In the second group, the reduction was 24 percent. It was also found that diversity of microbial exposure lowered the odds of asthma by 38 percent in the first group and by 14 percent in the second.
Although it was found that children living on farms - especially those exposed to cows, pigs and hay - seem to be less likely to have asthma and allergies, exactly how exposure to a variety of microbes might protect against asthma is still unclear.
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