Merely living close to livestock might lower allergy risk
( Reuters Health)- Exposure to farms seems to reduce the risk of allergy sensitivity, even among adults, and living close to a livestock farm in particular might curb common allergies, a Dutch analyse suggests.
Based on more than 2,400 adults in the Netherlands, researchers found that people who lived within 327 meters( 1,073 feet) of a farm, but were not farmers themselves, were about 21 percentage less likely to experience a range of allergies compared to those living 500 m( 1,640 ft) away or more.
The outcomes were similar when researchers looked specifically at close proximity to cattle or pig farms, though not for poultry farms. The apparent protection was also considered among people without allergy symptoms, but whose blood test demonstrated a tendency to have an immune reaction associated with common allergies, food allergies, asthma and eczema.
aFor 20 years, a large number of studies have shown that allergies are less prevalent in farmers and farmersa children, a told senior study author Lidwien Smit of Utrecht University.
aFarming is actually one of the few environmental exposures consistently linked to respiratory allergies, a she told Reuters Health by email. aItas important because the number of people affected by respiratory allergies has sharply increased over the last few decades.a
From the study participantsa blood samples, the research team measured allergy antibodies to house dust mites, grass, cats and puppies. They utilized geographic and weather data to ascertain the distance of each personas home from neighboring farms, the number and types of animals on those farms, and to calculate fine dust emissions from each farm.
About 30 percent of participants had allergies, largely to grass and home dust mites, and about a third had lived on a farm during childhood. The research team also analyzed the number of years the participants lived in their current house.
aYou could argue that selective migration might play a role, that is, less healthy people move away to more urbanized regions, a Smit said. aHowever, we didnat find this, which strengthens the idea that environmental exposures are responsible for the protective effect.a
The apparent protection tied to living close to a farm was strongest for those who lived near pig or cattle farm, as well as those who grew up on a farm, such studies team reports in Occupational and Environmental Medicine.
The study doesnat prove whether or how exposure to farms might reduce allergic sensitivity. Smit said the researchers are continuing to explore whether the rich diversity of microbes carried on wind-borne dust from farms might play a role in modulating the immune reactions of non-farming neighbors.
aMost allergy surveys focus on finding new ways to treat symptoms, a said Grethe Elholm of Aarhus University in Denmark, who wasnat involved in the study.
aIt is also important to keep drawing attention to some of the apparent the negative consequences of Westernized lifestyle with its current fixation on cleanliness, a Elholm said in an email. aFarms may be considered dirty and smelly, but they might actually be doing our immune system a favor.a
In the United States, researchers are also focused on the house dust mite, which is the most common allergen worldwide, and how dust, pets and allergens in the home build immunity early in life.
aIf youare growing up in an environment devoid of all exposures to animals and allergens, the health risks of developing allergic illnes tends to be higher, a told Dr. Alexander Adami of the University of Connecticut School of Medicine in Farmington, who wasnat involved in the study.
aThat doesnat inevitably mean you have to live near a farm or run visit one, a Adami said in a telephone interview. aGo play outside, get a pet or expose yourself to new environments.a
SOURCE: bit.ly/ 2K9faym Occupational and Environmental Medicine, online April 30, 2018.
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