Green Acres May Keep Asthma at Bay

Vol. 18 •Issue 12 • Page 23

Green Acres May Keep Asthma at Bay

Did Oliver Douglas, the character seeking refuge from the city to the country in the 1960s television sitcom Green Acres have a family history of asthma? One might draw that conclusion when comparing his plea to these lines in the show’s theme song (“keep Manhattan, just give me that countryside”) to a medical study that found a surprisingly low asthma rate among farm dwellers.

In a study published in November in the on-line version of the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology (JACI), researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin wrote that children who live or have lived on a farm have significantly lower rates of asthma compared to urban dwellers. Results of nearly 4,200 surveys from children in a rural Wisconsin school district revealed that kids who lived on farms were less likely to have a history of asthma and take asthma medications than do their city cousins.

Interestingly, asthma rates were higher in children who moved to farms after they were five years old opposed to kids born and raised on farms. Those children raised on farms also tended to have more siblings, were more likely breast-fed and less likely to have attended daycare compared to their urban counterparts.

That finding coincides with similar studies completed in various European nations, Australia and Canada, which suggest that early exposure to elements unique to a farm setting decreases the prevalence of asthma. However, the Wisconsin study suggests that the effects of the exposure may be both time sensitive and time limited; so maybe Oliver Douglas did just want to relax in the country.

–By Stacey Miller