My dad always told us kids that it was healthy to get dirty. “When you get dirt on your face and in your mouth, then you’re getting all your vitamins and minerals,” he’d tell us.
And like most of my generation, if my mom or dad told me something, I generally believed it to have merit. Those little tidbits of knowledge stick with you forever.
And I think I passed on the “healthy benefits of playing in the dirt” to my own children. So I was fascinated when I read a story in this very newspaper over the weekend that said people who grow up on farms, especially dairy farms, have fewer allergy and asthma problems than the rest of us.
Research is being done in what is called the “hygiene hypothesis,” where not getting exposed to those nasty cooties while we are children leads to more allergies as adults.
Yippee! Dirt is in. When that hotdog falls on the ground, it is healthy to pick it up and finish it. The news report suggested that one of the best things you could do for your children is to roll them around on the floor of the subway. I’m not sure I’d go that far, but it is worth considering.
The researchers, who published their findings in the journal Science, suggested they have evidence that farms contain the very best germs for preventing respiratory problems or allergic reactions in adulthood. Of course, much of their research was done on mice, which thrive in dirty conditions.
To further nail down the “eat dirt and be healthy” findings, researchers found that 25 percent of children living on Swiss farms had a reaction to common allergens such as dust mites, pollen, animals and mold — compared to 45 percent of the nonfarm population.
Better yet, they have determined that Amish children lead the “farmiest” of farm lives, in that only 8 percent reacted to allergens and dirt as they age.
Most studies conclude with a recommendation for more study. I guess that’s job protection. But the researchers contend that bacteria native to farms, especially ones that house livestock, just might trigger something in those who live nearby.
Atascadero is jam packed with small parcels that include the keeping of horses, sheep, chickens, cows and pigs. You may not have a horse, but your neighbor does.
I know Atascadero is searching for a new logo and marketing motto. Maybe a drawing of a dust cloud, such as the one always hanging around that little Peanuts character, Pig-Pen, accompanied by the words: “Atascadero, come breathe our dirty air,” would suffice.