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Farm Kids Fare Better on Asthma Front

They wheeze less than peers in cities, other rural areas

FRIDAY, Dec. 3, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Children who live on farms have much lower rates of asthma and wheezing than other children who live in rural areas of the United States, says a study in the online issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

Researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin and Children's Hospital of Wisconsin analyzed questionnaires filled out by 5,000 families in rural school districts in Wisconsin.

"Studies have demonstrated that asthma is very common among inner-city children. It has been referred to as a problem of epidemic proportions by some. In contrast, little is known about asthma in rural areas like Wisconsin, where 28 percent of the population lives in non-metropolitan areas -- almost half a million children," lead investigator Dr. Alan Adler, an assistant professor pediatrics at the Medical College and a pediatric pulmonologist at Children's Hospital, said in a prepared statement.

He and his colleagues found that children on farms were much less likely to have ever had asthma or wheezing. This reduced likelihood of asthma and wheezing was strongest among young children and seemed to be associated with living on a farm early in life. Asthma rates for children who only lived on a farm later in childhood were the same as other rural children who never lived on a farm.

Non-farm rural children and children living in towns had asthma rates similar to children who live in cities such as Milwaukee or Chicago.

Previous research in Europe found that growing up on a farm was associated with decreased asthma and allergies. It's been suggested that environmental and lifestyle factors associated with farm life may help protect children against asthma.

"There is now an impressive body of evidence demonstrating that there is less asthma among children growing up on a farm. Their unique lifestyle and environmental exposures may provide investigators with a valuable model for studying the development of asthma," Adler said.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about asthma.

SOURCE: Medical College of Wisconsin, news release, Dec. 3, 2004
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