Rich kids raised in hyper-clean homes are more likely to develop peanut allergy, a preliminary study suggests.

The researchers said their findings support the theory that lack of exposure to germs during early childhood increases the future risk of allergies, U.S. News & World Report says. This “hygiene hypothesis” holds that living in an overly hygienic home may suppress the normal development of a child's immune system.

In an analysis of 8,300 people, the researchers found that higher household income level is associated with peanut allergy in children aged 1 to 9 years. The results were presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), in Anaheim on Nov. 9.

“This may indicate that development of peanut sensitization at a young age is related to affluence, but those developed later in life are not,” lead study author Dr. Sandy Yip said in an ACAAI news release.

The study authors also found that peanut allergy was generally higher in males and racial minorities regardless of age, and that peanut-specific antibody levels peaked in adolescence (ages 10 to 19), but tapered off after middle age. Overall, only 20% of children outgrow peanut allergy.

Peanut allergy affects about 400,000 children in the United States and is one of the food allergies most commonly associated with sudden and severe allergic reactions, according to the ACAAI.

Although the study found an association between household income and peanut sensitization in young children, it did not prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

Still, it might be a good idea to occasionally drop your kid's PBJ in the dirt. Or, you know, let her play outside.

And in somewhat related news:

Flamin' Hot Cheetos Under Fire: Schools Seek to Ban the Spicy “Crack” Snack

Jazzing Up Vegetable Names Makes Kids Eat More of Them

Top 4 Back-to-School Snack Trends

Disney Bans Junk Food Ads Aimed at Kids

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