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article imageFarm exposure at a young age helps with disease resistance

By Tim Sandle     Dec 17, 2015 in Health
As part of the ‘hygiene hypothesis’ philosophy, some medical researchers argue that young children should visit farms and become exposed to animals in order to build up resistance.
This position is based on studies which show early exposure to animals lowers the risk of young people developing atopic diseases. Atopic diseases include eczema (atopic dermatitis), allergic rhinitis (hay fever), or allergic asthma. This is because of an interaction between the immune system and the environment that a person occupies.
The finding was tested out using data relating to the immunological differences between both farm and non-farm exposed children. Specific farm exposures included consumption of farm milk, exposures to stables and hay barns, and touching animals. A further control measure was introduced by assessing children who were exposed to farm animals and household pets.
Laboratory tests showed children who are regularly exposed to farm animals had greater levels of immunoglobulin E (IgE). These are antibodies produced by the immune system in response to an allergy. In essence, the research purposes, such children have enhanced immune systems compared with those who are not exposed to farm animals regularly.
The immune response was tested using bacterial endotoxin (or lipopolysaccharide,a toxin that comes from inside the bacterial cell). Levels of endotoxin were used to test each of the three subject groups. Here children with farm exposure showed a lower percentage of response responding to the endotoxin stimulation compared with the non-farm children.
Looking at household pets, there were some benefits. The findings showed early life and current exposures to cats and dogs have “immunomodulatory effects” (a level of enhanced immune system) but these are different from the effects seen with farm exposures.
The research is published in the Journal of Immunology and Clinical Experiment Allergy. The article is titled “The allergy and asthma protective effects of farm environment and pet animals - The role of immunomodulation.”
More about kids and farms, farm safety, Hygiene, hygiene hypothesis, Allergy
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