And the study says: Farm kids healthier than city kids

By Mike Barnett

Farm kids are 30 to 50 percent less likely to develop allergies or asthma than their city cousins, two European studies show as published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

That doesn’t surprise me.

Now no study should be taken as gospel, but the farm effect makes a lot of sense.

The theory is time spent outdoors–working with animals and farm dust and all the other activities involved in farm life—exposes farm kids to good bacteria and fungi, building up their immune systems and lessening their chances of getting sick. City kids, on the other hand, live fairly antiseptic lives spending much less time outdoors and not getting the exposure to those good “bugs.”

It’s kind of like the “three-second rule” I lived by as a child. It was okay if you dropped food on the floor, picked it up and ate it as long as it hadn’t been there over three seconds. And inside the house was reserved for bad weather. If it wasn’t raining, I was outside. My friends and I must have received a huge dose of healthy microbes because we were rarely sick.

There seems to be magic in fresh air and good bacteria. And as my dad was fond of saying, “hard work never hurt anyone” either.

That’s why country kids are healthier than their city cousins. That’s the theory of the studies, anyway, and I’m sticking to it.

Mike Barnett

Director of Publications
Texas Farm Bureau
I’m a firm believer that farmers and ranchers will continue to meet the needs of a growing world population by employing equal measures of common sense, conservation and technology.
Follow Mike on Twitter and Facebook.

12 Responses to “And the study says: Farm kids healthier than city kids”

  1. Billy B. brown says:

    The smell of fresh plowed soil, the feel of damp soil between the toes of your bare feet and the taste of dirt. Things you never forget from youth.

    • Earthy… I remember spending summers at my cousin’s farm in Vidor, Texas…we all ran around bare footed… except in the chicken coop and the hog pen… we caught catfish in the ponds, collected the chicken and duck eggs, weeded the garden and harvested the produce… sometimes we went to church bare footed… it was such a magical time… a time you never forget…

  2. Mike Barnett says:

    And things too few youth, Billy, get to enjoy today!

  3. Gene Hall says:

    Bare feet – Now I remember the splinters.

  4. willunschool says:

    Hey, great article. Could you please post links or a citation for the original studies? Thanks!

  5. willunschool says:

    Its most likely that the microbes protecting these children from asthma are ingested through their delicious farm fresh milk.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17456213

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21875744

    • Mike Barnett says:

      The studies I’m looking at say nothing about milk. They are talking about the exposure to farm animals and dust and the great outdoors that helps build immunity to asthma and allergies.

      • Gene Hall says:

        willunschool – We kept a cow when I grew up on the farm in the 60s and it was a practice that was declining even then. I expect this is rare today except for dairy farms. I drank tons of raw milk and I can’t say it ever hurt me. Some advise against it now for food safety reasons.

        • willunschool says:

          Thanks for the link. Its interesting to note that the original citation for the NEJM article (here: http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1007302) cites both the studies on raw milk and its protective affect for asthma and allergies that I already linked for you. Also interesting, fresh milk has never been taboo and remains legal in Europe. Y’all also might be interested to learn that the CDC says over 9 million people drink raw milk in the United States everyday. In fact, its legal to sell in five states. It can’t be all that dangerous if 9 million people drink it every day here and who can guess how many in Europe. I think the protective affect is in the milk. These studies support that hypothesis. And my children sure do appreciate the rich sweet flavor! :o)

          Well gosh, now that I think of it, its legal to sell in Texas, if I’m not mistaken. And a great financial boon to small farmers.

          Cheers fellas,
          K. Williams

          • Gene Hall says:

            Interesting discussion K. – I don’t think Tx Farm Bureau has a policy on this. We don’t oppose it. I would not challenge it. I know folks that drink raw milk today and some that advise against it. I can only say, as previously stated, so far – at age 58, I’m a fairly healthy guy. And I drank a lot of raw milk growing up!

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