Growing up with germs beats the clean-freaks! 😉
A recent study has shown that children who spend a lot of time outdoors in their early years have immune systems that function considerably better than those of children who live in towns and cities.
Researchers at two Irish universities looked at children aged between 15 and 35 months in four different communities in South Africa, and found that early exposure to a variety of microbes, including through handling animals, may be key to training the immune system to recognise threats correctly. They believe this process has life-long effects and is essential to avoiding chronic inflammation in adulthood, which can lead to a host of diseases, from cardiovascular disease to diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome and cancer.
The researchers looked particularly closely at over 130 genes associated with atopic dermatitis, otherwise known as eczema, and found that among the main influences on expression of these genes, and whether or not the condition manifested itself, were time spent outdoors and contact with animals. Children in the two rural groups sampled differed significantly from those in the two urban groups in the way that vital processes involved in immune function, such as signalling between immune cells in the blood, take place.