TUESDAY, March 6 (HealthDay News) -- Children growing up in the Amish culture in Switzerland have significantly less asthma and allergies than Swiss children who didn't grow up on a farm, according to new research.
What's more, the Amish youngsters even have less risk of asthma and allergy than Swiss children who grew up on non-Amish farms.
The study could support the "hygiene hypothesis" that a too-clean world is causing today's urbanized kids to be more sensitive to allergens than their country cousins.
"In Europe, children living on traditional farms seem to have a very low prevalence of asthma and allergy," noted the study's lead author, Dr. Mark Holbreich, an allergist with Allergy and Asthma Consultants, in Indianapolis. In contrast, he said, "in the general population as many as 50 percent will have evidence of allergic sensitivity. They may not have all the symptoms of allergy, but they will test positive for sensitivity,"
But, "in Swiss children who live on farms, about 25 percent have allergic sensitivity," Holbreich said. "In Amish children, it was only 7 percent. There's something very protective in the Amish children."
He was scheduled to present the study's findings Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (AAAAI) in Orlando, Fla.
In the study, Holbreich and his colleagues in Switzerland sent out nearly 29,000 questionnaires to families of children between the ages of 6 and 12 years old. The Amish were given a modified version of the questionnaire.
A random sample of those who completed the questionnaires was selected to be given allergy testing.
"The Amish children (138) underwent skin tests," Holbreich explained, and "the Swiss farm children and non-farm children had blood tests for measurement of allergies. For the farm children 3,006 were tested by a blood test and 10,912 non-
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