Barnyard Dust and Childhood Asthma

Recently, there was a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine and featured in the New York Times that compares asthma rates in two farming communities: the Amish and the Hutterites. Previous studies have shown that children who grow up on a farm have a lower risk of developing asthma than those who grow up in more traditional environments. While the Amish and the Hutterites share similar lifestyles, genetics, and diet, this study found that Amish children still had a lower risk of developing asthma than Hutterite children. The only major differences between these two communities are their farming methods and where their children play, which is how the researchers explained the results of the study.

The Amish do not use electricity and their children tend to play in their barns, which are close to their homes. The Hutterites, however, use a more industrial farming method, which includes the use of electricity. The Hutterite children do not normally play in their barns. The scientists found that the immune response in Amish children shows a constant low-grade reaction to microbes. Barnyard dust from Amish communities was loaded with debris from bacteria when compared with the Hutterite barn dust. Furthermore, when tested in mice, Amish dust strengthened the immune response, while dust from Hutterite barns did not.

Although this finding is an exciting new development, more research needs to be done on the association between barnyard dust and how it might affect the immune systems of children. However, the possibility of using inactive forms of the bacteria found in Amish barnyard dust in asthma prevention is no longer the farfetched idea it once was. As always, please consult with your child’s primary care provider if you have any concerns about your child’s health, or before you make any major changes to your child’s lifestyle.

To read more about the New York Times Article: click here.

To read more about the study in the New England Journal of Medicine: click here.