In farming environments where animals such as cattle, pigs, and poultry are kept, microbial products are particularly abundant. Accumulating evidence indicates that children growing up on traditional dairy farms have a significantly lower prevalence of atopic sensitization, hay fever, and asthma when compared with children from the same rural areas but not raised on farms. Interestingly, no protective effect of a farming environment was seen for the prevalence of atopic dermatitis.
Contact with livestock and poultry was found to explain much of the relation between farming and atopy. Exposure to the farm environment during the first year of life or even before birth, and the dose and duration of exposure from the first to the fifth years of life were crucial for this protective effect. Children exposed to animal stables or unpasteurized milk in the first year of life, in contrast to later exposure, had a significantly reduced prevalence of asthma, whereas
continued exposure was relevant for the protection from atopy and hay fever.