Published On: Fri, Jul 11th, 2014

Dairy Farms Decrease Risk of Ailments In Children

A new study out of the University of Gothenburg indicates that increased time spent on farms, particularly ones that house milk-producing cattle, has beneficial impacts on the health of small children.  Specifically, children who lived on dairy farms or who spent significant amounts of time around dairy cattle had a 90% decrease in all allergic reactions than children reared in other rural environments.

photo 24oranges.nl via Flickr

photo 24oranges.nl via Flickr

The study also noted that pregnant women who spend extensive amounts of time around dairy cattle and on dairy farms give birth to babies who have a lower risk of allergic diseases.  The researchers hypothesized that the mother’s increased immune response to allergens on a dairy farm helped to promote maturation of the fetal and neonatal immune system.  These particular results corroborate with data previously reported, which stated that pregnant women who spent time on farms in general gave birth to children who were significantly less likely to develop atopic dermatitis than their urban counterparts.

This study comes at a time when researchers are noticing an increase in allergic diseases around the world.  While the UK, Europe, and USA had previously reported allergy rates significantly higher than the global average, more and more countries are closing the gap, presumably do to increased industrialization.  Indeed, the Hygiene Hypothesis, which states that the decrease in exposure to microbes in industrialized nations is driving the increase in allergic disease diagnoses (due to decreased animal and dirt exposure and increased sterilization procedures), is widely accepted by researchers.

Short of bringing children and pregnant women to milk cows every weekend, there are many steps that can be taken to increase safe exposure to microbes and potentially decrease allergic reactions, including spending time outdoors for exercise, chores, or play, and decreasing the use of antibacterial soaps and cleaners, unless absolutely necessary (such as cleaning cutting boards after exposure to raw meat).  Care should be taken that exposure is not exacerbating an underlying condition; strategies can be taken early in life, but will not reverse a disease diagnosis.

Edward Marks is a PhD student at the University of Delaware.  His research involves the healing of myocardial tissue after major cardiac events using nanomedicine techniques, with the goal of pushing any advancement directly into the clinic.  Edward received his BS from Rutgers University and Masters from the University of Delaware.

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