CarriageTowneNews.com, Kingston, NH

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March 27, 2013

Hyper-cleanliness may make us prone to getting sick

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According to the hygiene hypothesis, bad things can happen if this early exposure doesn't take place or if it doesn't include the right microbes. The immune system can become overly sensitive, overreacting to non-threats such as pollen or dander as if they're potentially harmful. When combined with certain genetic traits, this process can lead to conditions such as asthma and allergies, says Kathleen Barnes, an immunogeneticist at Johns Hopkins University who specializes in the genetics of asthma.

Barnes' work has revealed that although genes play a key role in the development of asthma, changing a population's exposure to microbes — by protecting them from parasitic diseases, for example — can make asthma rates rise. That suggests that hygiene may also play a role in asthma.

"It can't all be due to genes, because if we look at the prevalence of asthma or diseases of inflammation over the past 50 years, we see it's definitely on the rise," Barnes says. "It's some interaction between the genes and the environment that's causing these rates to skyrocket."

But researchers can't say which particular interactions with the environment help prevent disease later on. That's because exposures tend to come in combinations, and teasing apart their effects on the body is difficult.

Take farming, for instance. Several studies have suggested that growing up on a farm can protect children from allergies and other immune-system-related conditions, but it's hard to know which element of farm living does the trick.

A 2012 study of Amish and Swiss farm and non-farm children found that the farm-dwelling kids had significantly lower rates of asthma, hay fever and eczema. But the farm dwellers differed from their non-farm peers in several ways: They had more exposure to livestock and the microbes that come with them; they were more likely to drink raw milk, which contains microbes not found in pasteurized milk; and they tended to have more siblings at home.

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New England News
Obituaries
  • Alan J. Walker, 68

    Kingston, N.H. — Mr. Alan James Walker, 68, passed away peacefully at his home on July 8, 2014, after a long, brave battle with cancer.

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  • James Reese

    Raymond, NH — James Edwin Reese, 74, passed away on Wednesday, July 16, 2014, surrounded by his family and friends at his home in Raymond, N.H. He was the son of John and Ruth Reese, born on Oct. 29, 1939 in Edensburg, Pa. James graduated from Central Cambria High School in Pennsylvania before proudly serving in the U.S. Army as a food inspector. His military service was followed by 31 years with the U.S. Department of Agriculture as a meat inspector. Mr. Reese was an avid outdoorsman and spent much of his time fishing, camping and hiking in the White Mountains. He became involved in the Boy Scouts and enjoyed passing on his vast knowledge of the wilderness to others. Throughout his retirement years he enjoyed woodworking, raising rabbits and working in his garden.

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  • Velma J. Reid

    South Hampton, NH — Velma J. Reid, 80, died peacefully on July 17, 2014 at Exeter Hospital, surrounded by family. She was born in Haverhill, Mass. on June 8, 1934, the daughter of the late George C.W. and Alta I. (Kimball) Haynes. A graduate of Haverhill High School, Velma worked at Western Electric until she had children. For years, she was a devoted “stay-at-home” mom who raised her three children in a loving, nurturing environment. She later worked various manufacturing jobs until her retirement. After retiring, she volunteered her time at various organizations and was very involved at the East Kingston Community United Methodist Church as a member of the women’s guild, assisting with the holiday fair, and helping out wherever she could. She had a passion for animals, and would donate money, food, and blankets to the NH SPCA. She loved to sew and made a personalized quilt for every member of her family. She was also a member of the “Ugly Quilts” group, which made blankets and sleeping bags for the homeless using recycled fabric. She is survived by her husband, Clyde Reid of South Hampton, N.H.; daughter, Pam Eaton of Danville, N.H.; son and daughter-in-law, Douglas and Kim Reid of Raymond, N.H.; daughter, Shirley Reid of South Hampton, N.H.; two sisters, Gwen Stuart of Haverhill, and Norma Taplin of Dracut; four grandchildren, Cheryl and Marc Welch, and Kristen and Joshua Reid, and several nieces and nephews.

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  • Carleen A. Knowlton, 80

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  • Miriam O. (Graham) Graham, 84

    Kingston, NH — Miriam O. (Graham) Graham, 84, a resident of Kingston since 2001, and former longtime resident of Grafton, Mass., died peacefully, surrounded by her family, on July 11, 2014, following a long illness.

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