The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Clean not always good for kids

Boston, Sept. 19 (Reuters): Clean living isn’t always a good thing for young children, researchers said yesterday.

A study of over 800 kids age 6 to 13 has found that the ones living in the dustiest environments were less likely to suffer from asthma and hay fever.

The research in today’s New England Journal of Medicine was another sign that children raised in the cleanest conditions face a greater risk of developing a hypersensitivity to substances that trigger allergic reactions. Last month, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that children who had cats or dogs at home were less likely to be have allergies to pollen or moulds. Kids with allergies are also more likely to suffer from asthma. In the latest research, parents living in rural areas of Germany, Austria and Switzerland were questioned about their children's health problems. The youngsters were also tested for allergic sensitivity.

The research team led by Charlotte Braun-Fahrlander of the Institute of Social and Preventive Medicine in Basel, Switzerland, vacuumed dust from each child’s mattress and measured levels of endotoxin, a substance found in the cell wall of bacteria.

The kids with the dirtiest bedding had the lowest rates of asthma and hay fever. Exposure to the dirt seemed to desensitise the child to the substances that spark an allergic reaction. The effect was seen in kids who lived both on and off farms, indicating that even lower levels of exposure in non-farm environments can ward off wheezing, they said. “Exposure to endotoxin early in life, during the development of the immune system, seems to be most important in providing protection against the development of allergic disease,” Scott Weiss of Channing Laboratory in Boston said.

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