Foreign-Born Children Have Fewer Allergies Than U.S.-Born Classmates

May 6, 2013  |  

We now know enough that environment has a lot to do with how allergies develop. New research finds this has more to do with living in an urban area versus a suburb; a study published on Atlantic.com finds that children born outside of the United States and then immigrate have fewer allergies than kids born in the United States. However, the more time kids spend in the U.S., the more allergies they may develop.

Researchers at New York’s St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital surveyed more than 90,000 children to determine whether having eczema, asthma, hay fever and food allergies was affected by their place of birth. What they found was foreign-born children were 59 percent less likely to develop any of the studied conditions. Apparently, whether mom and dad were born in the U.S. had an effect as well. “Children who were born in the U.S., but whose parents were not, were also significantly less likely to develop allergies, and being born outside the U.S. to foreign-born parents increased the apparent protective effect.” However, children who had been in America for ten years or longer were three times more likely to have developed an allergy.

These findings support the idea that early exposure to allergens helps children develop an immunity to them. The St. Luke’s study is the first to find that this exposure provides protection but it isn’t lifelong.

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