Do Parasites Protect Against Allergies?

Children who become infected with hookworm or other intestinal parasites may be less likely to have allergies, says a new research review. The study gives more support to the “hygiene hypothesis" -- the theory idea that increasingly germ-free surroundings may be contributing to a worldwide increase in allergies and asthma.

Exposure to viruses and other pathogens early in life may help prime your immune system, letting it develop normally instead of having a tendency to overreact to harmless substances, which is the cause of allergies.

Reuters reports:

“The research ... included almost 29,000 people ... [P]articipants with any current parasitic infection were 31 percent less likely than others to display reactions when exposed to common allergens like dust mite or cockroach proteins in a skin test.”

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