New research has found that we may actually be able to reverse allergies, even in adulthood. The fix may be as simple as taking a trip to the country.
For 15 years, researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark followed nearly 1,200 people who were bound for jobs in either farming or the army. They tested the subjects’ sensitivities to common allergens at the study’s beginning and end while also following where they lived and worked. What they found was that people who worked on farms in adulthood were less likely to become sensitive to allergens. People who moved from urban to rural environments showed the greatest benefit, but there was also a positive effect seen in farmers who had a farm upbringing.
Why the change? Researchers think that the diversity of microbes and bacteria on farms may help people’s immune systems develop a more appropriate tolerance against allergens. “It doesn’t protect you from allergies to stay away from all allergens,” says Grethe Elholm, a post-doc at Aarhus University and co-author of this study. “It actually seems to help to be exposed to a lot more of many different things because your immune system needs to work out.” Still, the research is fairly preliminary, and follow-up studies are expected. So it may be best for those with bad allergies to tread lightly in highly pollinated places.