A study from rural Austria shows that children who are exposed to horses and stables before they are one year old, have a much lower incidence of asthma, hay fever and an allergic skin disease called atopic dermatitis.

Several recent papers show that allergies may be caused by lack of work for your immune system. When a germ gets into your blood stream, you make proteins called antibodies that attach to and kill that germ. If you have few infections early in life, your antibodies look for something to attack, even if it is not an invading germ: It may attack dust mites or cat dander or ragweed pollen. However, before you try to give your young child an infection, realize that this is just a theory, has not been proved yet, and may be wrong.

Exposure to farming in early life and development of asthma and allergy: a cross-sectional survey. Lancet, 2001, Vol 358, Iss 9288, pp 1129-1133. J Riedler, C BraunFahrlander, W Eder, M Schreuer, M Waser, S Maisch, D Carr, R Schierl, D Nowak, E vonMutius. Riedler J, Childrens Hosp, Muellner Hauptstr 48, A-5020 Salzburg, AUSTRIA

Checked 8/9/05

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