MUNICH (dpa) – If infants sleep for the first three months of their lives on animal skins, it can reduce their risk of asthma later, a scientific study has found.
Researchers working for Germany’s Helmholtz Centre studied 2,400 children born in 1998 and found that by the age of six, those who had slept on animal skins had suffered 79 per cent fewer asthma attacks than those who hadn’t.
Even at age 10, the asthma risk remained 41 per cent lower when compared with those who had slept on sheets as babies.
One reason why the incidence of asthma and allergies has been increasing for decades seems to be the increasingly germ-free environment in modern urban societies.
“In contrast, it has long been known that children who grow up on farms are less likely to suffer from asthma and allergies,” said Andreas Hellmann, a pulmonologist in Germany.
“It is believed that early and regular contact with certain bacteria in hay, straw and animal breeding reduces the risk of these diseases. Certainly the greater the diversity of existing microbes the better,” he said.
Apparently animal skins can also be a reservoir for these microbes, even if scientists haven’t yet identified the bacteria responsible.
By sleeping on animal skins, city children can get some of the protection from asthma and allergies that children growing up in the countryside or in direct contact with animals benefit from.