Amish and Hutterite study tells us that cats and dogs help protect people against allergens

The study which looked at the prevalence of allergy among two American communities, the Amish and the Hutterite, tells us that keeping cats and dogs, including indoors, helps to protect schoolchildren from allergens including those causing asthma. The Amish are in Indiana and the Hutterite reside in South Dakota.

Amish girl with cat. Painting by Sev @WorldArtArena (believed).

This is an interesting study comparing two American communities which have similar genetic ancestry. They also share similar lifestyles and customs. Their children are vaccinated and apparently both communities do not allow pets inside the home.

However there is a difference between the two which is that the Amish practice traditional farming and use horses for fieldwork and transportation. The Hutterite community live on large industrialised communal farms.

The study found that there is a big difference the prevalence of allergy amongst these communities. Only 5% of Amish schoolchildren suffered asthma compared to 21% for the Hutterite children.

The researchers asked why people with a very similar genetic background had such different allergy profiles. A major clue discovered by the researchers was that the Amish were more likely to have allergens from cats and dogs. In addition there are allergens from house-dust mites and cockroaches.

They concluded that this was because 40% of Amish homes had these allergens in the home from cats and dogs (and I presume other sources) compared with 10% for the Hutterites.

Residue from bacteria, the sort that causes disease was nearly 7 times higher in Amish homes.

I conclude from this study that exposure to allergens from cats and dogs and other sources is beneficial to children of school age in building up a defence against allergens resulting in a much lower prevalence of asthma, for example. Cats also protect from allergic reactions to house-dust mites.

This supports previous research, which I have discussed in earlier articles. And one time it was thought that indoor cats and dogs made matters worse but the opposite is in fact true.

P.S. Although there is a taboo against indoor pets amongst the Amish and Hutterite community, clearly it is not adhered to 100%. Unless, there was greater contact outside the home between Amish schoolchildren and cats and dogs than amongst children in the Hutterite communities.

P.P.S. I welcome any input from visitors which add to this article. The source is rather thin on content (The Times Newspaper) but interesting and useful.

P.P.P.S. I know that the Amish have a bad reputation for running puppy mills. This is a bad look for the community and undermines their ethos of being kind to animals.

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Michael Broad

Hi, I'm a 71-year-old retired solicitor (attorney in the US). Before qualifying I worked in many jobs including professional photography. I have a girlfriend, Michelle. I love nature, cats and all animals. I am concerned about their welfare.

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