Farm living may protect against childhood asthma and allergy - but how?

Many epidemiological studies have shown that children who grow up on traditional farms are protected from asthma, hay fever and allergic sensitization.

The most effective protective exposures include:

- early-life contact with livestock and their fodder
- consumption of unprocessed cow's milk

Studies of the immunobiology of farm living point to activation and modulation of innate and adaptive immune responses by intense microbial exposures and possibly xenogeneic signals delivered before or soon after birth.

Children living on a farm are at reduced risk of asthma (OR 0.68), hay fever (OR, 0.43), atopic dermatitis (OR, 0.80), and atopic sensitization (OR, 0.54)


Farm living: effects on childhood asthma and allergy. Nature Reviews Immunology 10, 861-868 (December 2010) | doi:10.1038/nri2871
Farm exposure—a novel natural model of immunotherapy against allergic diseases? JACI, Apr 2009.
How to reduce your risk of asthma: spend your whole life on a farm
Children living on farms exposed to a wider range of microbes leading to lower asthma risk. NEJM, 2011.
Protective role of contact with livestock and farming lifestyle on asthma, in particular during childhood. ERJ January 1, 2012 vol. 39 no. 1 67-75.
“Farm”-acological approach to reduce asthma risk
Image source:, public domain.

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