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Exposure to Wide Variety of Microbes May Reduce Allergies

Unknown Lamer posted about 2 years ago | from the introducing-whole-foods-gammaproteobacteria-shake dept.

Medicine 120

sciencehabit writes "A new study reveals that people who grow up in more rural environments are less likely to develop allergies. The reason may be that environments rich with species harbor more friendly microbes, which colonize our bodies and protect against inflammatory disorders." From the article: "To test whether or not biodiversity does indeed create a shield against such conditions, the team investigated the microbial diversity of 118 teenagers. The study participants, who had lived in the same houses their whole lives, were chosen at random from a 100-by-150-kilometer block in eastern Finland. Some kids lived on rural, isolated farms, while others lived in larger towns. ... surveyed all of the types of plants growing around the adolescents' homes. The participants were part of a separate long-term allergy study, so the researchers took advantage of that data to investigate the connection between biodiversity and allergies. ... Whether there is just something special about Finland's native plants or whether this finding can be applied around the world is still an open question, Hanski says. 'Many research groups worldwide could easily attain these data from their study populations, and then we'd know how general these results might be.'"

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120 comments

Hrumph. (0)

bennomatic (691188) | about 2 years ago | (#39924753)

Stupid scientists. All they can come up with are theories. I've got your theory RIGHT HERE!

Re:Hrumph. (1)

bennomatic (691188) | about 2 years ago | (#39924875)

Joking aside, I've heard--but cannot cite at the moment--that studies have shown that within just a few years of introducing water purification systems to a community, allergies become markedly more common. Of course, the flip side of this is that before the clean water (and allergies) people were getting sick or dying from the dirty water.

Re:Hrumph. (4, Insightful)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 2 years ago | (#39925149)

If only there was some kind of compromise position - let's call it a "happy medium" - between living in hermetic sterility and getting cholera.

Re:Hrumph. (3, Interesting)

Samantha Wright (1324923) | about 2 years ago | (#39925317)

There is! We call it the big blue room. Some people say it has no ceiling. I scoff at them.

...personally, I vote for mandatory rural daycare, followed by kindergarten in an industrial district, and so on. By retirement you may live in a glass bubble.

Re:Hrumph. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39925865)

The back page of this months Discover listed a bunch of these. One particularly interesting factoid... some guy actually flew to Cameroon and walked around barefoot around latrines, exposing himself to hookworm. He successfully defeated his asthma and seasonal allergies, and now ships people hookworm larvae to apply to their skin on a bandage (at $3k a pop). Weird, eh?

As for the topic of this one... it's old, old, old news. I don't know why it's making the rounds again. Previous versions of this related to children growing up on farms, and the like.

Re:Hrumph. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39927989)

As for the topic of this one... it's old, old, old news. I don't know why it's making the rounds again.

You must be new here.

Re:Hrumph. (3, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | about 2 years ago | (#39925309)

The risk/benefit seems to strongly favor water purification, but it seems we are going too far in other things these days. It's likely a natural outcome of the pervasive free floating fear in our culture today.

Re:Hrumph. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39927999)

Just let kids play in the dirt ("clean" dirt ;) ):
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/461138.stm [bbc.co.uk]
http://www.livescience.com/7270-depressed-play-dirt.html [livescience.com]

I figure it's a bit like having an army with nothing to do, some of the jokers start shooting the civilians.

If you give them some real stuff to fight (even not so harmful ones),
1) They start having something to do
2) The "enemy" often has counter-measures that makes the immune-response weaker. This is often true for stuff like parasitic worms. That's why some desperate people actually resort to using worms to solve their autoimmune problems.

Can I see your theory right here? (1)

tepples (727027) | about 2 years ago | (#39925791)

If you have a theory that explains the observations better than the theories that stupid scientists came up with, may we see it?

Re:Can I see your theory right here? (0)

azalin (67640) | about 2 years ago | (#39928985)

How about: If your immune system has nothing to do, it gets bored and will look for other things to fight. That does include triggering (sometimes sever) immune reactions for imaginary threats like pollen, cat hair or dust. Also a well trained immune system will be a lot better at fighting real threats, than one that was never really challenged.

Re:Hrumph. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39927791)

No sir, what you have is a hypothesis. It may (or may not) become a theory when other people will try to replicate the results (or even better - they shall try to prove that it is false).

People in rural areas (2, Insightful)

overbaud (964858) | about 2 years ago | (#39924755)

Are also less likely to come into contact with carcinogens in their food, air and water.

Re:People in rural areas (2)

bennomatic (691188) | about 2 years ago | (#39924789)

I'm not sure that's true. Rural areas include things like mines and oil wells and the like, which could easily leak poisons into the groundwater.

Re:People in rural areas (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39924817)

I don't think this applies to Finland, where the study was performed.

Re:People in rural areas (5, Insightful)

Mashiki (184564) | about 2 years ago | (#39925323)

Are also less likely to come into contact with carcinogens in their food, air and water.

Load of freaking shit. Until I was born my family was a farming family for a few generations, I still have a few friends in the business. One who does cattle(milk) 15k head(family owned), and another that does rotational crops from soy, corn and hay, to more rare stuff like ginseng and hemp. Sorry, but you get exposed to all sorts of really, really nasty stuff. On the field, and at your dinner plate. Because honestly, you're buying exactly the same stuff more often than not that everyone else does.

On the upside, you also get exposed to just about everything that nature can throw at you before it hits the slaughterhouse too. From cowpox to chicken based colds to whatever else. And you're not cooped up inside for 18hrs a day(unless it's winter), which really helps.

Re:People in rural areas (2)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 2 years ago | (#39925951)

Good point... but having had asthma for 20yrs now, I would gladly trade a disease that's made my entire life miserable for one that will simply kill me 10 years early.

Dogs (3, Interesting)

Barbara, not Barbie (721478) | about 2 years ago | (#39926881)

I used to have hay fever, pollen fever, even pollen from trees - kleenex wasn't enough - I'd go through rolls of paper towels, gobs of dristdan nasal spray, lots of anti-histamines, unable to sleep because I couldn't breathe ... nothing really worked.

I was also allergic to dogs and cats - so I got a dog. Two months of absolute hell, 24/7, because he went with me everywhere ... then one day, it all just stopped. It's been almost two decades with no allergies to dogs, most cats (there was one who could stillmake my eyes water, for some reason) ... no hay fever or pollen allergies whatsoever ...

Our systems evolved in an environment where they have to distinguish between pathogens that can harm you, and the innocuous stuff like pollen. They aren't all that good at doing the job when there aren't any nasties to "train" against.

Explains (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39924757)

Explains why everyone in Amerika has one or the other food allergy, while they are pretty rare in India
We dont need ban peanuts,etc from schools/cities,etc. the allergies arent so extreme(or maybe those with alleriges die off pretty soon)

Re:Explains (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39925065)

No, that comes from having medicine. Anyone with a serious allergy in India dies, so the tendency to have allergies is bred out of the population.

Re:Explains (5, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | about 2 years ago | (#39925343)

Nonsense. We have not had medicine (that works) long enough to see a significant effect from natural selection.

Most of the problems are a result of our culture of fear and wrapping children in a protective cocoon. It is proven, for example that prenatal exposure to peanut proteans helps to prevent peanut allergies. As a result of mothers in the U.K. following bad advice and avoiding all peanut products during their pregnancy, there was an explosion of peanut allergies.

Meanwhile, the strategy of total avoidance of anything that provokes even the slightest reaction has lead to a lot of mild allergies never being desensitized.

Meanwhile, most allergies are of the minor itching or redness sort, not the OMG where is the epi-pen type, but you'd never know it from the media reports.

Re:Explains (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39925877)

Really? Given that infant mortality has gone from several a generation to several generations per occurance in families, are you really sure that we don't see a substantial change in the population? While the gene pool is unlikely to change substantially in a few generations, the number of people who are living with genetic defects in the western world has increased immensely. Start with the extreme examples. People born with Down's syndrome didn't survive very long 100 years ago. People with cystic fibrosis didn't generally survive very long 100 years ago. Babies with GI troubles "failed to thrive" and died. Just because no major "evolution" has occured doesn't mean that the population is ithe same as a century ago.

Re:Explains (2)

Gr8Apes (679165) | about 2 years ago | (#39925949)

If I only had mod points. Anyone that thinks we haven't had more significant changes over the past 5-8 generations than the last 30000 years with the exception of a few major plagues is smoking something.

Re:Explains (1)

sjames (1099) | about 2 years ago | (#39929425)

Yes, really!!! How many thousands of years was it that the same diseases kept killing babies and we couldn't evolve our way out of it? And you think 3 generations of antibiotic availability have done more than those millennia?

A few people not dieing doesn't necessarily cause an evolutionary change, particularly if they don't reproduce (indistinguishable from infant death as far as evolution is concerned). The increased allergies wouldn't be accounted for even if 100% of the babies that wouldn't have lived 100 years ago all turned out to have allergies.

Until I moved overseas (3, Interesting)

arcite (661011) | about 2 years ago | (#39926487)

I was allergic to all kinds of nuts. I have lived all over Africa and no doubt been exposed to countless microbes, I am now allergy free. Pistachios used to be the worst, I couldn't even lick them or my throat would swell up. I now eat them by the bag. There is truth to this, our immune systems were not meant to be exposed to an environment soaked in bleach and disinfectant.

Re:Explains (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39928581)

Eating peanuts may help prevent allergies but not always...
My wife consumed a lot of peanut butter during her first pregnancy, it was the only thing she could stomach.
My son is allergic to peanuts, eggs and a whole host of proteins.
We theorize that the cause is antibiotics that he was given due to an infection
Some of things may also be hereditary...

Re:Explains (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39927159)

That may be a factor but most of the comments here are just wrong. People seem to believe either you have allergies or you don't. That's medically proven not to be the case. Many people develop allergies later life. Others find their allergies simply disappear. In either case, they can re-emerge at any time. Having allergies isn't necessarily a life long affliction. People who have been healthy as a horse can one day wake and find they have horrible allergies.

All of which seems to hint that allergies are moreso about environmental conditions than anything else. But yes, more study is required.

Re:Explains (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39928715)

There's no hinting about it. Learn how allergy shots work if you want to know more about it. An allergy is just your immune system activating incorrectly against a protein. It follows a different pathway than normal, disease fighting stuff, but it's still your immune system. It's the activation that causes your body to produce the histamine, which makes you feel like shit (just like your fever will make you feel badly).

Allergy shots are simply a controlled way to keep putting the proteins to which you react into your system until you stop reacting so strongly. This works completely differently than most OTC allergy meds which primarily consist of histamine blockers (i.e. they plug up the receptors, so you don't get a histamine reaction, but your body still activated the immune system wrongly and the histamine is still floating around inside you - even without a histamine reaction the histamine will probably make you feel unwell).

Seriously, this is old stuff.

Again? (4, Informative)

clickclickdrone (964164) | about 2 years ago | (#39924779)

Hardly news, it's been reported many times over the last few years that research indicates our overly sterile environment is causing problems with alergies, asthsma etc. Heck, even our grandparanents knew this with old wives tales about eating dirt to make you healthy. A collegue from India tells me they have a ceremony involving putting some mud or something in a babies mouth to encourage a healthy defence mechanism.

Re:Again? (2)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 2 years ago | (#39924931)

I've heard that HYPOTHESIS before, but don't think I've heard it tested like this before. Anyway, scientific results should be replicated. And old wives tales and Indian ceremonies are poor bases for medicine.

Re:Again? (3, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | about 2 years ago | (#39925353)

You'd be amazed how much medicine is "old doctor's tales" or the result of taking advertising claims at face value.

At any rate, this particular set of "old wives tales" seems to be backed by modern scientific evidence, from the study in TFA and others.

Re:Again? (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 2 years ago | (#39926813)

A study based on 118 people in a geographically narrow area based on a sample at one time of biological diversity is absolutely NOT the sort of thing that you would want to base any kind of decision on.

It's ridiculous that this sort of thing gets in to the popular press. It's pure garbage science.

Re:Again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39927277)

What a surprise, someone on slashdot failed to grasp the point.

The point is, its a fact that many (far from all) "old wives tales" turn out to have some fashion of medical basis. The biggest problem is generally just getting people to study them as far too many researches prove too stupid, and extremely unscientific, and therefore dismiss such things simply because they are "old wives tales."

That's not to say every old wives tale is grounded in fact. Many are complete bullshit and need not be tested. Having said that, an embarrassingly (for the scientific community) large number of old wives tales have proven to have some medically sound basis.

So the question becomes, are you stupid, closed minded, and a poor scientist, or are you a smart, brave, good scientist. Sadly, most fall into the form categories.

Re:Again? (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 2 years ago | (#39928143)

I see you are short on reading comprehension today.

Go back and re-read my posting.

I said nothing as to whether it was a good idea to study this issue. only that this study was far from conclusive.

Re:Again? (3, Informative)

smooth wombat (796938) | about 2 years ago | (#39928613)

only that this study was far from conclusive.

Fine, this study was not conclusive. How about we add in this study [suite101.com] (2008), the same comment from the Mayo Clinic [mayoclinic.com] , this study [npr.org] (2012) or this one [indiatimes.com] (2012).

They all say the same thing: getting dirty as a kid and growing up in a rural environment reduces ones vulnerabilities to infections and afflictions. It's called the hygiene hypothesis [wikipedia.org] and makes perfect sense when the evidence is examined.

People, particularly kids, who grow in more sterile environments (constantly using hand sanitizers, over using antibiotics, keeping everything spotless) on the whole, have more allergies and other issues than those who don't go OCD or, if you prefer, Monk.

Not sure how much more evidence you need when it's staring you in the face.

Re:Again? (1)

azalin (67640) | about 2 years ago | (#39929155)

While I'm with you, that the theory itself is sound and has been proven numerous times, this particular study isn't really worth that much. It would be ok to base further studies on the trend it shows, but in order to be significant or to "prove" anything it would have needed a far larger and more diverse group of people (like in those studies you posted).

Re:Again? (1)

Barbara, not Barbie (721478) | about 2 years ago | (#39928661)

Geophagy [wikipedia.org] - the eating of mud, dirt, etc., but especially clay, is pretty much universal, and always has been part of what people (and other animals) do naturally. Clays are bio-active.

Re:Again? (2)

pev (2186) | about 2 years ago | (#39925831)

Absolutely seconded. It's amazing what people believe. For example, in the the middle ages people used to believe that treating pussy wounds with bread with a blue mould would help. Such poppycock would be a preposterous basis (sic) for medicine.

Re:Again? (2)

JamesP (688957) | about 2 years ago | (#39925945)

Yes, because the only observations that are true is what comes from a lab, right?

Vaccines come from the exact kind of observation the parent mentions, sure it was tested.
But of course, modern "web scientists" only consider "research" that comes from lab financed companies

But if you want to test it, sure, go ahead, because obviously you know better than several years of immune system research

 

Re:Again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39926255)

I'm no doctor, and I've seen these studies before.

And no, I don't mean on those hokey www.holisticherbalmedicialconspiracy.com type site. Just in my news feeds, in passing. I'm sure there are important, detailed differences in how they're done and exactly what they're studying... but same general idea. They've been re-covering this ground for years.

Re:Again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39925043)

And now I'll post Carlin [youtube.com] for all the free karma!

Because Anonymous Coward needs Karma!

Re:Again? (3, Interesting)

Mattsson (105422) | about 2 years ago | (#39925597)

But this seems more focused on finding the mechanism behind why growing up in a "dirty" environment leads to fewer allergies.
Possibly, this could lead to a "cure" for those growing up in unhealthy environments, like having overprotective parents, living in a large city or for other reasons being unable to have a healthy childhood environment.
Maybe it is possible to develop something like those yoghurts with bacteria that helps people with an unhealthy or too sterile diet keep a working digestive system but for people who need something to keep them from developing allergies instead.

Re:Again? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39925991)

Slashdot is a fucking mess now days. They need some real editors.

parasites (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39927101)

There is also a lot of evidence that parasites are a big part of the equation. Researchers have been able to turn allergies off and on by giving volunteers tape worms then killing off the worms. The theory, supported by biochemical analysis, is that our immune system and parasites have co-evolved such that our immune system is geared to over react and worms produce moderating factors. Take away worms and our systems are out of balance.

Creepy and disgusting and I don't recommend it, but still interesting stuff. I couldn't find the original articles I read, but did find this link: http://autoimmunetherapies.com/helminthic_therapy_news.html

Re:Again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39929531)

that friend from India should be an idiot.

what they put is not mud but grounded dry root /stem of an ayurvedic shrub mixed in honey.

Interesting details to already studied subject (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39924783)

It has already been shown that the children growing in "dirtier" surroundings develop less allergies: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1868862/ . This study shows that there is a correlation between flora diversity near home and allergy rates with people growing up nearby each other.

A common problem with target based incentives (3, Insightful)

samjam (256347) | about 2 years ago | (#39924793)

Clearly the human body sets strict targets for pathogens identified and the immune system is pushed to find enough pathogens, even finding subversive and insurgents among friendly substances, even in itself, if that is what is required to meet the targets.

We see the same thing in the operation of government and security forces. We see similar bad behaviour as education and health systems struggle to meet centrally set targets and commence a path of undesirable behaviour in order to meet the target and obtain the incentive.

Editors editing?! (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 2 years ago | (#39924801)

Thanks Unknown Lamer for actually doing some editing on the summary and providing useful information. Keep it up.

Allergies are good, m'kay... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39924841)

If you have allergies, it is a sign that your immune system is doing exactly what nature intended.
People with allergies will very likely be less suscebtible to viruses, bacteria, fungi and protozoa.

I have hayfever (allergy), my gf doesn't. She get's flue infections every year. I havn't had one in 4 years...

http://news.yale.edu/2012/04/25/why-hay-fever-may-be-good-sign

Re:Allergies are good, m'kay... (2)

Theophany (2519296) | about 2 years ago | (#39924885)

I don't get 'flu infections and have no known allergies. Just generally eating what you should (i.e. fruit, vegetables) and drinking right (i.e. sufficient water every day) works a treat for me.

Then again, I also drink enough alcohol on a weekly basis to ensure that my innards are sterile and no foreign life can subsist within me. Take that, gut bacteria.

I volunteer (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39924891)

I have hayfever (allergy), my gf doesn't. She get's flue infections every year. I havn't had one in 4 years...

I'm an amateur "chimney sweep" and wish to offer my services.

Re:I volunteer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39925241)

ITYM service's. Or maybe even 'service's.

Re:Allergies are good, m'kay... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39924909)

Generalizing is bad, m'kay. It depends on how severe your allergies are. One of my dormmates was severely allergic to peanuts (nuts in general I believe). He had to be very careful about what he eats or it could severely disrupt his life for days, and might even be life threatening. This might be the immune system responding the way nature intended, but I dont think it is good. I dont know people with Asthma, but I bet they would disagree with you too.

Re:Allergies are good, m'kay... (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | about 2 years ago | (#39925787)

Nut and Peanut allergies are actually very rare to find in the same persion since peanuts are not actually nuts (they are beans). I know a person who is allergic both, but most people with food allergies are either allergic to peanuts, or the other nuts (cashews are also not a nut, so they are probably safe).

Re:Allergies are good, m'kay... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39925237)

No, allergies are a sign that your immune system is broken.

Allergies are your immune system reacting to completely trivial things and taking it to 11.

Allergies are "oh hey, what's that? THE AIR. OH GOD IT KNOWS, HE HAS COME TO GET ME BACK FOR NOT PAYING HIM PROTECTION MONEY" and goes absolutely insane.

I've got no allergies, I never lived in a sterile environment for most of my life.
Suddenly I decide not to go out for a few years during the school years towards the end. Oh, sup autoimmune.
Funny that, not even on medication and just using "horrible dirty infected" food to deal with it very well.
Non-contact causes illness. Period.
Your immune system thrives on interaction. Without it, it goes crazy and starts talking to itself and headbutting walls.

What a discovery... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39924913)

When I was a child, I was spending weekends and summers in the countryside, eating dirt, ants and flowers, and for some "misterious" reason I was the only kid in my classroom who didn't have any allergy! When I had a kid myself, I was also taking him to the countryside regularly and now he's 26 and also 100% allergy-free. Genetics? I doubt it: his mother, raised 100% in city, is allergic to almost any known allergen out there! Also, discussing the matter with several friends, we noticed the same: take your kids to the Great Outdoors regularly, and they'll be allergy-free; keep them in the city, and expect them to spend springs looking like Rudolph, Santa's reindeer.

Re:What a discovery... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39925569)

My parents, and their parents (and me) have lived in the city all our lives, and we are 100% allergy free. Anecdotal evidence is anecdotal.

Re:What a discovery... (2)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | about 2 years ago | (#39925807)

And just to add to your argument, I did more camping as a kid than anyone I know and both me and my father share LOTS of environmental allergies. It's also been shown that prolonged exposure to certain things (like cut wood and cats) can *induce* allergies that were never present before.

Re:What a discovery... (1)

stewbee (1019450) | about 2 years ago | (#39926205)

I would say that when I was younger I spent plenty of time outside by hiking, playing soccer, swimming in lakes, playing in the woods, etc. I would say that I was allergy free up until recently. I am an engineer (implying I don't get to go outside much anymore) in my mid 30s now, and I noticed last year in the spring that I started to get really congested and sneezing in the spring. It was/is especially bad this season. While I haven't gone to the doctor to officially get diagnosed, I have a strong suspicion that I have developed allergies based on my experiences of other with allergies. My older sister, who is a nurse, experienced something pretty similar too.

Now back to your original hypothesis. I would guess from my own experience that genetics may be a partial factor. My parents, to my knowledge, don't have allergies. My sister and I started off without them but have since developed them. Maybe the genes were enough when we were younger, but as we started working in doors because of our jobs we became more sensitive to things like pollen and other springtime allergy culprits.

My farm-girl wife bucks the trend (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 2 years ago | (#39924949)

I swear, sometimes it seems like she's got every allergy imaginable - food allergies, pollen allergies, animal dander, dust, you name it. So whatever biodiversity existed on her parents' rural farm, it doesn't seem to have done her good, at any rate.

But, still - it would be interesting to see a more global analysis done to verify whether this holds up world-wide. For all we know, Finland might be special because the pollen granules immediately get coated with ice as soon as they leave the plant...

Re:My farm-girl wife bucks the trend (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39925369)

For all we know, Finland might be special because the pollen granules immediately get coated with ice as soon as they leave the plant...

We can also learn, if we don't know already: Finnish viina is quite good. Mythbusters confirmed some of its uses as effective quite a while ago.

Bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39925011)

I grew up in the middle of nowhere farmland and it's easier to count the trees and weeds I'm not allergic to than it is to count the ones I am.

Re:Bullshit (1)

YoungHack (36385) | about 2 years ago | (#39926299)

This is my experience too. People want to believe this study because it has a good narrative, but it doesn't really ring true for me.

Child nurse (2)

spectrokid (660550) | about 2 years ago | (#39925035)

My sister is a child nurse who visits young families at their homes to give advice and check on the babies. The "lower classes" live of junk food and use cheap stuff, with plenty of cheap perfumes, insecticides and random chemical crap in their household. Their children suffer from obesity, and even vitamin deficiencies. But NEVER allergies. The rich families with cleaning ladies twice a week, bio-detergents and balanced organic diets however...

I used to work for a factory which made a protein you could get allergic to, so the staff was closely monitored. We had lab technicians who did DNA analyses on nanograms of the stuff, and factory operators who were swimming in tons of the crap. Guess where most allergies occured...

Re:Child nurse (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39925217)

Your mom.

Re:Child nurse (1)

LateArthurDent (1403947) | about 2 years ago | (#39926859)

My sister is a child nurse who visits young families at their homes to give advice and check on the babies. The "lower classes" live of junk food and use cheap stuff, with plenty of cheap perfumes, insecticides and random chemical crap in their household. Their children suffer from obesity, and even vitamin deficiencies. But NEVER allergies. The rich families with cleaning ladies twice a week, bio-detergents and balanced organic diets however...

I used to work for a factory which made a protein you could get allergic to, so the staff was closely monitored. We had lab technicians who did DNA analyses on nanograms of the stuff, and factory operators who were swimming in tons of the crap. Guess where most allergies occured...

That's probably right, and I think our immune system evolved exposed to all that stuff we're suddenly removing from our environments, so there may be unintended consequences. The summary, however, is right in that there are far too many variables and the result of the study could be a result of the specific environment in Finland and more actual scientific study is needed.

After all, if we're trading anecdotes, my mother was raised in a farm in Brazil right up to her 20s. Today she's allergic to just about everything from pollen to shrimp to bee stings (almost died from that last one once). I was raised in cities my entire life in what I definitely think was an overly clean environment with every one of my toys seriously disinfected every time I or anyone else played with them. Today I'm not allergic to anything, although I did go through a period when I first went to college where I was sick for literally 8 months straight. I'd recover from a cold, go a week without it, and then get something again. Immune system seems to have adapted to the filth I was suddenly living in fairly quick though, and after that the rest of the time in college I never got sick (and the squalor only got worse).

Close but not quite (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39925095)

Allergies are the body reacting to what it believes are intrusions. They are less likely to occur in people who have been exposed to actual parasites, because the body has a real intrusion to compare it to. Much like a dog that gets overexcited and barks and jumps up against the screen door every time the mailman comes by, the body thinks it is fending off an invader. This is why continued exposure to an allergen reduces the allergy, while occasional brief exposure increases it. This study has in fact found the correct result that a "dirtier" environment leads to fewer allergies, but they have completely missed on the reason why.

No shit, really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39925125)

You mean that magical thing called the immune system that sets its sensitivity based on external and internal attacks constantly?
Like pretty much any other part of the body does?
Naww. Stop it. You're making stuff up.

It is only recently us morons have been getting all these new diseases because our overly sterile environments.
The body never evolved to live like this.
The body NEEDS other lifeforms to actually get a grip and know what is what.
You take those away, you are in for a world of pain.
People put it down to "ooo its all them chemicaaals in them foods you eat", nonsense, the chemicals limits are very well defined. It is the lack of rawness in the food we eat.
Raw food isn't a problem anymore outside of those seriously rare cases where something like Foot & Mouth breaks out. Fact: if you eat it, you will die regardless, there is no cure, nor a reliable way to clean any foods of things like that. Just one. Just one and you are screwed.
The reason "people are weak against [insert ineffection X]" as an adult is very specifically because they got said infection as an adult.
The immune system gets weaker with age. If you already had a narrow immune system as a child, you are screeewed when you grow up.
Hell man, this is biology 101. Even normal people know this. What with all the measles parties and even flu. (but stupidly some people done this with swine flu when that was a whole other ballgame)

So, yes, bringing your kid up in a bubble is bad. Stop doing it.
Let them eat the flowers. Worms? Well, they are tasty, they supply quite a bit of the nutrients that plants absorb and animals eat, eat up Timmy!
Just make sure they don't eat something bad. Don't be careless, but don't be nazi camp instructor either.

Re:No shit, really? (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | about 2 years ago | (#39925341)

Raw food isn't a problem anymore outside of those seriously rare cases where something like Foot & Mouth breaks out. Fact: if you eat it, you will die regardless

Foot & mouth is rarely fatal even to animals. It's very rare for humans to catch it, and if they do it's no more serious than flu or measles.

And you're more likely to catch it from touching meat than eating it - it doesn't like acidity at all.

Could very well be junk science... (2)

KrazyDave (2559307) | about 2 years ago | (#39925129)

for the reasons cited in other posts, plus the demographics of city dwellers would be different. Could be that urbanites would include poorer (weaker immune systems from lesser pre and post-natal health, poor diets, more crowding/exposure to communicable diseases) people, as well as "nerd" professionals who seem to have a higher incidence of physical limitations (poor eyesight, sedentary jobs, weak constitutions) and thus not really be an element of environmental exposures. Just demographics.

Fight allergies by *exposing* yourself (4, Interesting)

Hamsterdan (815291) | about 2 years ago | (#39925171)

That's how I cured my cat allergies. I couldn't even stand to see a picture of one. So I got one... It was hell for a couple of weeks. Now, 16 years later, no reaction whatsoever unless she scratches or bites me. Even other cats have almost no effect on me now. If you always sterilize, remove germs and ultra-clean everything, of course your body won't know what to fight.

Re:Fight allergies by *exposing* yourself (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39925923)

My mom has allergies to cat dander (you apparently can be allergic to the fur or the dander). When we got our cat (my sister really wanted one), she would bathe the cat in distilled water. My mom insisted that helped. Like your story, now years later, her cat allergies aren't as bad. The only time it showss up is if she sleeps on a pillow the cat has been on. That tends to cause watery eyes, and maybe a bit of swelling or redness.

Re:Fight allergies by *exposing* yourself (2)

Maow (620678) | about 2 years ago | (#39926175)

I'm glad it worked for you, but it seems I'm in a different situation.

Have done a fair bit of gardening over the past decade, no problems.

Got a dog 5 or 6 years ago, seemed to have developed an allergy where my hands would bubble, split, crack, peel; it was insanely itchy, then painful. Used to joke that plunging them into boiling water would at least slough off the damned skin that was tormenting me and be only incrementally more painful.

Once the dog passed away, I figured the allergies were a thing of the past. Wrong! They became so bad I could hardly walk.

This spring things were pretty good - until I began weeding. Over one weekend set in a reaction that lasted a month, only cured with prednisone.

Then, this sunday I was out weeding again, wearing gloves 99% of the time, and by monday morning I was so terribly itchy & sore that when scratching my hands came away wet with ... seeping yuck from the "wounds".

I'm frankly fucking terrified now of further exposure as it's a crippling effect, similar to fleas plus a very bad sunburn.

I don't know what to do - gardening is one of my only enjoyable pass times, yet I don't think I can expose myself any more and go through months of the side effects. Fortunately don't seem allergic to eating the produce...

Oh, and haven't been too sterile about things - been a fairly avid camper over the past 10 years too.

As it is now, it's 5:35 and I'm waiting for a medical clinic to open to either get my 2nd prednisone prescription in a month, or to get a "shot" for allergies.

God damn it, I'm in some pain right now.

I heard an interview with the "hook-worms from latrine in Cameroon" guy, was disgusted. I can now almost see his point. Almost.

Re:Fight allergies by *exposing* yourself (1)

Muad'Dave (255648) | about 2 years ago | (#39927395)

Do you have things like poison [poison-ivy.org] ivy [wikipedia.org] where you live? I'm not a doctor, but your symptoms sound like allergic contact dermatitis and not a typical systemic allergic reaction. I'm very sensitive to poison ivy toxin, and get really bad blisters from it.

Re:Fight allergies by *exposing* yourself (1)

leftover (210560) | about 2 years ago | (#39927927)

Your reaction sounds more like a contact irritant, poison ivy|oak|sumac or any of the other weeds and flowers containing irritants. Systemic allergies seem to show up first in mucous membranes, not necessarily at point of exposure.

Re:Fight allergies by *exposing* yourself (1)

Barbara, not Barbie (721478) | about 2 years ago | (#39928767)

Sounds to me like you were better off when you had the dog than you are now. Give up the gardening and adopt a dog.

Re:Fight allergies by *exposing* yourself (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | about 2 years ago | (#39926353)

Did this with my Dog, took about 5 years though. At first if I went into my brother's room, where the dog slept, I would break out with horrible allergies after 5 minutes.

Re:Fight allergies by *exposing* yourself (1)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 2 years ago | (#39926717)

Nothing too surprising here. My oldest son had terrible allergies and was in danger of developing asthma. After a series of tests an allergist developed a series of shots for him that over several years brought his allergies under control through a planned program of acclimation, to the point where now he only has mild symptoms in the fall.

http://www.respiratoryreviews.com/apr00/rr_apr00_immunotherapy.html [respiratoryreviews.com]

The thing is it doesn't work for everyone, and the age you start is important. But for my son, it changed his life.

hand sanitizer is for drinking (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39925571)

I refuse to use it because after we kill off the weakest 99% of bacteria, that 1% that survived will probably kill us all.

My anecdote (4, Interesting)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about 2 years ago | (#39925633)

For the record I'm still pretty young, only 25. But I grew up playing in the dirt, playing sports (especially football and baseball). I usually got dirty every day. If I got a cut, I rarely used a bandaid, even more rarely used something like neosporin. My house didn't use a lot of disinfectants, and my sister was the same way I was. I still don't really wash out or clean out cuts and they never get infected (and with where I work, the amount of dirt, oil, and other things I get on me is crazy), I rarely get sick, and I have no allergies. My sister rarely gets sick, and the only allergy she has is to pollen (which is a really common allergy here in Georgia). I firmly believe it was my lifestyle growing up that kept my immune system so strong.

And yes, I am aware that the plural of anecdote is not data.

Re:My anecdote (1)

bigrockpeltr (1752472) | about 2 years ago | (#39929077)

I am exactly as you describe yourself... (even age) except that i work in an office and i do have bad sinusitis especially from dust and cats and strong perfumes. I have had about 5 cats over many years and have not got fully accustomed to them. I cant even try to clean my own room because i start sneezing like crazy (its a good excuse not to though :P)

carbon particulates (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39925693)

The products of internal combustion are biologically active and obviously more dense in urban areas. Dirt may not end up being as protective as the electric drivetrain.

this is idiotic (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 2 years ago | (#39926091)

Or maybe their parents didn't have allergies so they moved out into a rural area. That's something I'd never do when I get married because I have allergies.
I had allergies since before I was 1 year old so sorry, it's still extremely genetic.

Re:this is idiotic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39926995)

Exactly! You are spot on. Everyone is stretching their imaginations to the limit trying to explain this half-baked research. All they did was find a correlation. The researchers then go on to just make up the explanation because it just seems like the germs and plant biodiversity might be the culprits. But parents not moving to the country because they have allergies or moving away from the country because their other children are sneezing every day explains the data equally well. A few more minutes of thinking it through will probably lead to a dozen other plausible explanations for the correlation.

I agree the study (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39926245)

I grew up at small farm. We had some cows, pigs etc.
For about 30 years of work history, I have been on sick leave for about one week all together. I get minor cold maybe once a year, but no fever.

Over exposure could still be a problem (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | about 2 years ago | (#39926321)

Antecedal Evidence, myself. I grew up in a more rural area and did spend a lot of time outside as a kid with my two brothers. I was the one who played in the compost (grass/leaves) heap the most, eventually I got sick and broke out in hives. Now, I'm allergic to penicillin and the only one in the family with seasonal allergies.

about time... (2)

mallydobb (1785726) | about 2 years ago | (#39926611)

I think a lot of this is "provable" with anecdotal evidence, but I think there is something about allowing people to get sick or exposed to germs...we live in a world where people are afraid of germs and sickness and want to drop an antibiotic at the first sign of illness, bacterial or not. I currently live in a country where antibiotics can be gotten at pharmacies without a prescription. When people start to cough or otherwise display symptoms of being sick the first recourse is an antibiotic; doctors even will prescribe antibiotics when the symptoms point towards virus, just to make induce a placebo effect and make sure their patient feels cared for.

Anecdotal evidence...I grew up in the country and was exposed to a lot of "pathogens". My mother was a school nurse (likely bringing some of her work home with her) and just being outside in the woods, going to the bathroom, climbing trees, swimming, stick fighting, making forts, etc...all without washing hands. I never had allergies as a child and the only time I get sick in Beirut is when I am exposed to an extreme amount of pollution or the strange pollen from the pine trees here that plagues nearly everyone about once a year. I am even tolerant of something called the spring worm (caterpillar) that has feces and body hairs that are extremely irritating.

Our bodies are stronger than we give them credit for and we need to stop being a nation/world of hypochondriacs. Its nice that there seems to be some serious study on this issue. From personal experience I seem to see that the people who are the sickest are those that were sheltered the most growing up.

Going rural worked for me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39926927)

I had a allergy screening done in 2008 while living in Silicon Valley and scored 4's (the highest allergic reaction on the test being used) on almost every pollen and cats, which we all know are evil. After moving out into the farmlands of Illinois i've never missed a day of work due to allergies and only have to take an allergy pill 3-5 days a year compared to 3-5 weeks a year that I did in California. There's a lot more pollen around here but it barely makes me sneeze any more.

Unfortunately, cats are still evil and nothing can stop them from trying to murder my sinuses.

Reverse Causation (3, Informative)

dorpus (636554) | about 2 years ago | (#39927019)

These observational studies did not establish the direction of causation (assuming it is causal). It could be that people who do not have allergies are attracted to (or remain) in farming, while those who are allergic take jobs in the city. I did a report on this in grad school.

Causation (1)

edibobb (113989) | about 2 years ago | (#39930203)

A new study reveals that people still don't understand that correlation does not imply causation.
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