I hear this over and over. So as a scientist, I thought I’d take a peek at this.
Research shows that farm kids have fewer allergies and asthma. It turns out that farm dust exposure in mice resulted in greater resistance to those allergens. Follow-up studies on both mice and humans confirmed these results. It also added more resistance to effects from dust mites. The converse of these studies suggests that maybe kids are raised in environments that are "too clean". Haha, when I think of my childhood growing up in rural Kansas, we were dirty all the time. And we don’t have allergies to anything. I don’t remember most of my friends having those kinds of problems either.
We also see that rural kids who eat fish and are regularly exposed to farm animals are immune to these allergies. Studies in Sweden evaluated 3,618 individuals and found this to be true.
There is something to this Hygiene Hypothesis. It seems like higher incomes result in more cleanliness and in turn results in more allergies. Additionally, exposure to household cleaning products may play a role. And think about all the toxins released from carpets and other home products. Whereas, when I was a kid, I spent nearly all my free time outside. My Dad had this whistle that he blew when it was time to come home. We could hear it from a mile away. Wherever we were in the woods, we’d hear that and run home.
Come to think of it, I had a very wealthy friend who I would have sleep overs with now and then. I remember how lavish his home was. And he had Atari and all the gadgets of the day. But he was a really nerdy kid. He got picked on a lot in school. He even wet his pants in class because he was reading a book and just forgot to go. I know that sounds terrible. But I always liked this kid. I was kind of an in-betweener. I was both a jock and a smarty pants. So I could pick and choose my friends. I do remember him being sniffly and having a weak constitution. These were the kids who didn’t spend much time outside. I had several friends from the city who were like that. When we would take them outside, they hardly knew sports and knew nothing about woodcraft. They couldn’t split wood or bust rocks with a sledge. I grew up doing those things.
My wife is prone to allergies. But it almost seems like they aren’t affected as much when we go camping. Also when we go to rural West or South, her allergies magically disappear. Some of it may just be in getting fresh, outdoor air. Sometimes she’ll be in a total fit, but if we open the windows, she gets a little relief. Its so strange.