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Why Do Amish Kids Have Allergies Less Frequently Than Other Kids?

The Amish Have Less Allergies

We recently discovered that our 6-year-old daughter has allergies. She’s sniffly, her eyes are itchy, and she clears her throat every half hour or so — all classic hay-fever symptoms. And you know who is to blame for her seasonal maladies? Me.  It’s not just my allergy-prone genes; if we were Amish, she may have never developed them.

I should note that it doesn’t have to do with the Amish’s religion and their beliefs, but rather the fact that they live in a rural area on farms.  A new study by Dr. Mark Holbreich shows evidence that Amish kids in northern Indiana suffered from allergies and asthma in far less numbers than their peers in other areas, and even kids living on farms in Switzerland (a region known for its low-allergy rates). “The rates are very, very low,” said Dr. Mark Holbreich. “So there’s something that we feel is even more protective in the Amish”

The researchers are not yet sure what factors from growing up on farms and in particular Amish farms make those kids less prone to allergies, but it’s something that has been known for a while and has been referred to as the “farm effect.” The numbers reflect that there is some truth in this assumption. They performed skin tests on kids and found that about 44 percent of non-farming Swiss children have a predisposition to allergies, while the figure was 25 percent for Swiss kids who lived on farms. However, the Amish kids in the Midwest have a rate of about 7 percent.

Some of the reasons why farm kids have less allergies? As Fox News states, “the going theory is this early exposure to the diverse potential allergens and pathogens on a farm trains the immune system to recognize them, but not overreact to the harmless ones.” They added that drinking raw cow’s milk may also make a difference.

As for why the Amish farm kids have lower numbers than the Swiss farm kids, it may have to do with modern farming. The Swiss use techniques that result in less time for the families are outside, while the Amish are old school; the whole clan is outside and in the barns year-round.

Do you think we should be exposing our kids to potential allergens early on to build an immunity?

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Photo: iStockPhoto

 

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