New Research Points to Lower Asthma Rates in Amish and Other Farming Children

PRWEB–According to new research from the 2012 Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI), Amish children have much lower rates of asthma, hay fever and allergic sensitization versus even other farming children.

One of the theories behind the rising rate of asthma and allergies is called the hygiene hypothesis. It says that living conditions in much of the world might be too clean and that children are not being exposed to germs that train their immune systems to tell the difference between harmless and harmful irritants. A farm environment may offer that exposure to germs.

In Switzerland, nearly 29,000 questionnaires were given to families of children between the ages of six and 12. A random sample of children were evaluated for serum specific IgE to airborne and food allergens. Among the Amish, a modified questionnaire was given and children had a skin prick test to similar allergens.

The results showed that the Amish had the lowest rate of asthma with 5.2 percent versus 6.8 percent in Swiss farm children and 11.3 percent in Swiss non-farm children. Allergic sensitization rates also showed the same pattern with the lowest rate of 7.2 percent in the Amish compared to 25.2 percent in Swiss farm children and 44.2 percent in Swiss non-farm children.

“This supports the hygiene hypothesis and the previous observations of my co-investigators that early life farm exposures are protective against developing allergies and asthma,” said first author Mark Holbreich, MD, FAAAAI, a practicing allergist in Indiana.

“Our next goal is figuring out the farm life factors that are protecting the children we studied in the hope of offering some form of intervention for children at risk to lower their potential of developing allergies and asthma. Early exposure to farm animals and drinking milk directly from the farm, which is neither pasteurized nor homogenized, may be key factors,” explained Dr. Holbreich.

Other research presented at the AAAAI meeting also appeared to provide support for the hygiene hypothesis. A study from Johns Hopkins Hospital looked at whether certain environmental chemicals like BPA were linked with allergic sensitization. As a group, they were not, but urinary levels of triclosan, which is an ingredient in products like hand sanitizer or mouthwash, were significantly associated with sensitization to aeroallergens and food.

In addition, a Korean study of about 1,800 children found that antibiotic use during infancy was significantly associated with the development of allergic rhinitis and eczema. The researchers explored the relationship between antibiotics use and certain gene variations and also found a significant association with those conditions.

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A link to all abstracts presented at the AAAAI meeting is available at