Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I'm not lazy, I'm immunizing my kids.

I like to think I'm a loving and attentive mother. A clean one, not so much. So when some scrap of information comes in that makes me feel lauded for my laziness, I embrace it. Today's article comes through the graces of Uncle Jim, and the NEJM.  "Exposure to Environmental Microorganisms and Childhood Asthma".  I just love these medical titles. They really tell you what you need to know in as few words possible.

The punchline.
So, kids on farms as compared to kids not raised on farms (most of the kids I know) have less asthma, breathing problems, etc.  Why?  Well, I always thought it was because they were exposed to more things as kids, so their immune system got an extra workout.  This article supports this and gives some proof as to why.

What did they do?
Two big studies looked at how much bacteria farm kids as opposed to city kids were exposed to. Two separate methods were used, one used a fancy type of flypaper to trap bacteria, the other looked at mattress dust collected with a vacuum. Gotta love how low-tech can give high-quality data.  Mix the bacteria collected with standard culturing and staining techniques and fancy DNA sequencing and showed the farm kids were exposed to not only a greater number, but a greater variety of bacteria and fungus than the city kids. And those farm kids, in all their wholesomeness, had fewer cases of asthma and atopy than the non farm-kids.

Why is this important?
Well, it's been known for some time that kids on farms, or kids exposed to lots of dander, bugs, dirt, etc, actually do better in terms of autoimmune issues (asthma, atopy, and the like) than kids kept in a cleaner environment.  While this study was not absolutely connect the dots to bacteria/fungi exposure and bolstered immune system, it brought us closer.  So, maybe it's not so bad when, at Grammy's house, my 1 year old rubs her piece of bread on the floor where the dog's fur lays in small tufts, and I, much to my parents' chagrin, let her take a bite.  Maybe it's OK to let her eat a little bit of dirt.  OK, a lot of dirt.  Maybe exposing her to lots of little bugs at an early age is gonna help her not have to buy lots of Benadryl, Allegra, and whatever other miracle antihistamine is made in the future.  And maybe I can stop feeling a smidgen of Mommy Guilt over letting her be a kid. Maybe she knows something I don't.


  1. Love that! We are absolutely "immunizing" over here.... :)

  2. yep! I saw something about this in the NYT or some other city-slicker publication. yay, dirt!

  3. i adore dirt and dust bunnies have taken permanent residence in our house. every time my kiddos play in the mud or outdoors i rejoice in their strengthening immune systems! fyi for any mommies interested in encouraging muddy play outdoors - there is an outdoor mud pie kitchen. oh the fun it generates around here :)

  4. K. has been my mentor in this--way back when her first one was a toddler she told me this is something she's relaxed about, so I have trotted out how my immunology friend is not a germaphobe when Anneke is getting her hands dirty!