Though gender roles are being challenged more today than ever before, it is still common to hear more girls being discouraged from playing in the dirt than boys. Parents may want to reconsider their worries over dirt after recent studies reveal kids who are allowed to get a little dirty are exposed to healthy doses of bacteria that can lead to growing up healthier.
Michael Simeona reports in MyNorthwest about research coming out of Oregon State University that suggests women who have higher rates of autoimmune diseases and allergies were kept too clean as children. Researcher Sharon Clough explains why she believes more women are getting sick with autoimmune diseases like Lupus (90% of sufferers are women) than men. She says, “Look, if you're okay having your little boy play in the dirt, you should be okay having your little girl play out in the dirt as well. Little boys are more often than little girls encouraged to play in the dirt. Little girls are dressed in clothing that's not supposed to get dirty.”
It’s not surprising that the idea of more dirt and bacteria wouldn’t sound appealing to parents, but as more research comes out the benefits of this type of exposure becomes clear. Dr. Aoi Mizushima of Providence Medical Group Family Practice explains, “There is some thought that getting exposed to things, even parasites and different microbial elements in the dirt, might actually improve the overall immunity that a child develops.”
Do you notice a difference between the way boys and girls are encouraged to play and get dirty?
Does this type of information make you worry less about keeping your child’s hands clean?
I loved to play in the dirt as a kid. My sister and I make tons of mud pies back in the day. My two girls also love getting dirty. I think it is part of being a kid and learning about the world. I say go for it, have fun!
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