Science and Tech


Modern Life Is Too Clean For Fighting Allergies

Modern society makes our immune systems complacent and prone to overreaction, which is why allergies are on the rise.
Posted at 5:57 PM, Dec 06, 2016

Allergies are getting more common. In 2012, more than 73 million kids in the U.S. had a reaction to something. Scientists say it's because modern life is too clean for children. Their immune systems get complacent without infections to fight. But there are still ways to cut down on children's allergies — especially if prevention starts early.

What an expectant mother eats can offer some protection. Eating peanuts and wheat and drinking milk can lower the risk that her child will be allergic to them. And if kids eat these foods four to six months after they're born, their immune systems are more likely to accept them without a fuss.

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Getting a dog or cat early in life can prevent reactions to pet dander.

And growing up on a farm instead of in an urban environment exposes kids to a higher microbe load and makes them more resistant to allergies. A study of Amish children on isolated dairy farms showed they had especially low risk of asthma.

Even having more brothers and sisters or going to daycare seems to boost kids' resistance to allergies. We still aren't sure why it happens. 

So while there isn't a cure for food allergies or asthma, early prevention is one of the best ways to keep the problems from growing.