FULL DISCLOSURE: I am a farmer’s daughter. My grandparents were also farmers. On top of that I married a farmer and in time became a farm mother. I have an intimate knowledge of farm dirt. But I have never been worried that it was bad for me or my children.
So recent headlines that farm dirt is good for us are no surprise to me. Just saying….
City cousins used to come visit us on the farm every summer. The two sons in one family were asthmatic; they would come armed with an arsenal of protection and their mother would map out the areas in the yard they could and could not venture into. They never listened to her; they were having too much fun.
Back in the city afterwards they would inevitably have asthmatic attacks and I remember a summer when one of them was actually hospitalized as a result. It was the first time that my siblings and I had ever thought of farm earth and air as potentially dangerous.
(It never stopped our cousins from wanting to come again the next summer. Fun on the farm was apparently worth the price .)
What is asthma, we wanted to know. Why does the farm make our cousins sick?
Because they’re not used to the farm, mom said. If they lived here, they would be used to dust and mold and pollen.
Last week I read in several different publications – with varying degrees of scientific complexity – the news that studies in Europe and elsewhere have shown that children raised on farms have relatively low rates of allergies and asthma. Something like 25% compared to 45% in the general population.
Boiled down to their simplest components, the findings are that exposure to the common bacteria and microbes found on farms leads to the development of a special protein in the lungs that protects against allergy development.
The scientists warn that it is not quite as simple as that, however. There are other factors at play. For example, drinking unprocessed milk also seems to ward off asthma in children and there will be more studies done about that.
But it does seem that dirt, especially farm dirt, may play an important and positive role in the good health of our young children.
Something to think about.
FURTHER DISCLOSURE: I love it when I get to say, “I told you so.”