People who have allergies often wonder how that happened. There isn’t a definitive cause for allergies. Some people have several family members who all have allergies – others are the only one in their family with them. A study adds weight to the “hygiene hypothesis” cause of allergies.
The “Hygiene Hypothesis” was first introduced in the late 1980’s by David P. Strachan (a professor of epidemiology). His paper was published in the British Medical Journal. He found that children in larger households had fewer instances of hay fever because they were exposed to germs by their older siblings.
In short, the idea is that kids who were exposed to bacteria and dirt when they were little end up developing stronger immune systems than do the kids who are in a cleaner environment. The implication is that the surge in allergies and asthma among modern children might have something to do with the increasingly sanitized environments in which they live.
A study was published in The New England Journal of Medicine. It was titled “Innate Immunity and Asthma Risk in Amish and Hutterite Farm Children”. It was done by researchers at the University of Chicago.
The researchers focused on differences in asthma and allergy rates among the Amish and Hutterite amilies. These two Christian sects isolate themselves away from other communities. Both are similar in ethnicity with each other. The Hutterites use modern agricultural techniques, and the Amish use “old-school” methods.
The researchers studied 30 Amish children who were between the ages of 7 and 14. All of them lived in Indiana. They also studied 30 Hutterite children who were between the ages of 7 and 14. All of them lived in South Dakota. The research lasted for one year. Each child was matched with a child of similar age from the other group.
The researchers placed electrostatic dust collectors in the bedroom and living room in each of the 10 Amish and 10 Hutterite homes. The purpose was to collect household dust. After a month, the dust was analyzed for endotoxin and allergen levels. Extracts were prepared for studies in mice. A vacuum was also used to collect dust from the living-room floor in the Amish homes and the mattresses in the Amish and Hutterite homes.
The results of the study showed that none of the Amish children, and six of the Hutterite children, had asthma. Those rates were similar to those reported in earlier studies. The researchers said the study showed significant difference in the prevalence of asthma and in immune profiles, suggesting that environmental factors must account for these differences.
Image by Tina Franklin on Flickr
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