Babies Exposed to Allergens and Bacteria May Have Less Allergies as Children

The headline above comes from a June 8, 2014, article in the Science World report. The article is based on research published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology titled The Urban Environment and Childhood Asthma (URECA). This study released on June 6, 2014, found that children with exposure to various bacteria and allergens in the first year of life have increased protection against allergic diseases and wheezing.

As asthma is more prevalent in the inner city, URECA research sought to find factors responsible for the disease by studying 560 children from birth to three years that lived in the cities of Baltimore, New York, St. Louis, and Boston. Each child had at least one asthmatic parent which places the child at high risk for development of the disease.

Wheezing and sensitivity to common allergens during the early years of a child’s life are indicators of developing asthma. The study measured wheezing occurrences and exposure levels to the common allergens of mouse, dust mite, cat, cockroach, and dog.

“Surprisingly, it turns out that exposure to cockroach, mouse and cat during the first year of life was associated with a lower risk of recurrent wheezing by age three. These findings show that early exposure may actually prevent problems later in life,” according to Science World Report author Catherine Griffin in her article.

Findings in a smaller study by URECA tested whether bacteria in house dust increased risk for asthma. Again, researchers were surprised that children with no allergen sensitivity or wheezing at age three were more probable to have had a high level of exposure to allergens and a greater variety of bacteria.

Homer Boushey, MD, a professor of medicine and an asthma expert at University of California San Francisco, was part of the URECA study and commented on the findings saying, “Strict avoidance of allergens to lower asthma risk has been unsuccessful. Maybe permitting allergen exposures, with increased exposure to the sources of certain microbes, might be more successful in reducing asthma risk.” He continued, “If confirmed by other studies, these findings might even have us think of returning to the patterns of exposure of the 1940’s, when families were larger, food was less processed and sterilized, and children spent a lot of their time outdoors.”

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