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Girls who play in dirt grow up healthier according to researcher

Young girls who play in the mud tend to end up healthier than those who don't, according to a researcher at Oregon State University. (AP Photo)

Playing house, collecting Barbie dolls, and wearing dresses are common acts of raising a young girl in our society. But according to a recent study, it could be detrimental to their health.

Sharyn Clough, a researcher at Oregon State University, has discovered that women who have higher rates of allergies, and other autoimmune disorders are a result of being too clean. In other words, parents who let their children run amok in dirt or mud tend to have healthier kids.

"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," Clough explained to King 5.

Women infected with the auto-immune disease Lupus outnumber their male counterparts 9-to-1. While there isn't a concise explanation as to why the disease occurs more frequently in women, the expectation for young girls to stay cleaner than boys may provide a reason.

"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," added Clough.

Being exposed to high amounts of bacteria found in dirt can actually help build a healthier immune system.

"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," said Dr. Aoi Mizushima of Providence Medical Group Family Practice.

Mizushima explains how kids used to spend nearly two to three hours playing outside everyday. But with the influence of television and video games forcing kids to spend the majority of their time indoors, auto-immune disorders are on the rise.

"In the past 50 years, there has been a 400 percent increase in allergies and hay fever and asthma," Mizushima added.

One daycare center in Portland has taken the study to heart, as they encourage both boys and girls to play in the mud. The Portland Providence Wee Care Day Care Center provides a pair of rubber boots, shovels, and a mud box for their kids to play in.

"We always tell parents the kids are going to get dirty, that's part of the work of childhood," explained Wee Care director Colette Brown.

Maybe letting the kids get dirty isn't a bad idea after all.

You can learn more about Sharyn Clough's research on Oregon State's website.

About the Author


Michael is a weekend editor at MyNorthwest.com after interning with 710 ESPN Seattle. A recent Washington State University graduate, Michael is an avid sports fan who loves golfing, hiking, and screaming his face off at Seahawks games.

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