I was sitting on my couch this morning, drinking my first of two cups of coffee, watching my normal newscast before getting ready for the day. During a commercial break a commercial for an air purifier pops on the screen promising to remove a ridiculous amount of particulates from the air down to three microns – whatever that is, I’m assuming it’s small.
That commercial brought back memories of a job I did several years ago, an office for a prominent local allergist… I’d heard quite often that one of the leading causes of asthma and other respiratory maladies (especially in kids) is the fact that modern homes are too pure in terms of air quality. The idea is counterintuitive of course, but a meeting with the owner about what a great job my guys did provided the opportunity to seek a little free advice. My wife was pregnant with our first so it was of great concern.
His response was surprising even to me, half expecting the standard “well, yes to an extent, but you’re missing some pertinent info” kind of answer. He said, paraphrasing, that there was a growing body of evidence that showed the idea to be true, and added that his recommendation to parents, to aid in helping their kids to avoid developing childhood asthma is to keep two medium-sized dogs in the house while they are growing up – from birth. He went on to explain that cats don’t provide the same benefits as dogs and that the benefits from two dogs far outweigh just one. The theory behind the suggestion is that in today’s purified homes, the body doesn’t have anything to attack so the immune system becomes hyper-vigilant and ends up attacking important functions in the body, which brings about asthma, because at that point when even the smallest little particle is introduced for the immune system to finally do battle with – well, let’s say your immune system goes Rambo on it. And the collateral damage is the asthma.
I’m going to have to do some heavy research on this because my simple searches are showing mixed results – primarily, that people who already have asthma should avoid having dogs because 30% of asthma sufferers are allergic to them…what I haven’t been able to find, yet, is data backing the theory that too much purity is the problem prior to developing allergies. Not surprisingly, finding information about purifying air, especially from those who are selling air purifiers is not so hard. But when you think about it, air purity as a problem only makes sense. It’s a well-known fact that allergies and asthma are on the increase, while air quality has only improved over that same time period (outdoors and especially indoors).
Ah, there it is… The studies are on Notes 47, 48 and 49 and show: “that the effects of exposure to cat and dog allergens worked in the converse fashion; exposure during the first year of life was found to reduce the risk of allergic sensitization and of developing asthma later in life”. Generally I’m going to stay away from Wiki, but in this case, they’ve got the relevant studies. Of course, I’m not too surprised that it’s difficult to find a lot of information that shows that having dogs and cats and playing in the dirt and not having a completely sterilized home are good things – you can’t sell that. This brings meaning to the old phrase, “rub some dirt on it, you’ll be fine” to which I am a firm adherent.
In any event, I’ll give you two guesses as to what is recommended to help combat asthma but you’re only going to need one.
Also, just so you know, for both of my daughter’s first years we had two cats and two dogs (up to three dogs for a time).
I’m sitting on a concrete and tile bench at water level watching my girls rock their swimming lesson. My oldest is way more advanced than I was at twelve. She is a natural fish at eight.
My youngest was a bit more of a worry. We’d worked together at the local high school pool and I got her to maybe 20 yards, to me and back but she lacked drive.
She really started taking off when my friend and running buddy/mentor (don’t tell him I wrote that mentor part, Laura) Grateful Jim started taking them swimming while I was out running with the boys. We call him Grateful Jim (or Grateful for short, or Great One in my case) because he truly is the most grateful man any of us know.
Grateful Jim was a special forces medic in his younger days. He’s as tough as they come – in fact, about ten years ago, on my first ever ten mile run on snow and ice covered roads he slipped at the turn around and went down. He dusted himself off and ran all the way back – with two broken ribs.
In any event, Grateful Jim is tough like that about everything, including teaching my kids to swim. One of his favorite sayings to them is “what’s the difference between five feet of water and fifty”. When the girls shrugged he said, “nuthin’, you can’t touch in either one”.
So while I may have gotten them started, he honed their skills. No excuses and no life jackets. Now I know for a fact, my girls were never in any danger, not for a second – he refers to them as his de facto grand kids and treats them as such…but I also know he made them work for their ability to swim and it’s paid off.
While all of the kids in my youngest’s class were screaming, thrashing and wailing at the prospect of learning to float on their back, my five year old daughter was out there floating around with no assistance – the only one in her class.
Meanwhile, my oldest and I have been tending to plans to do some kid Triathlons this summer – and that’s what this is really all about. My girls were brought up in an environment where exercise; running, riding and swimming are not only a way of life, it’s what we do for fun and we do it as a great big, extended Grateful family.
On the other side of that, I had a cousin die of a heart attack two months ago. He was three years younger than I am.