Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Avoid Allergies, Live Dirty

Reuters | Latest Financial News / Full News Coverage

Researchers have apparently decided that children who live with a dog in the house are less likely to be allergic than children who live with a cat.

"Gern explained that dogs may help curb allergies better than cats because dogs tend to be dirtier, and exposure to dirt early in life may help kick start the immune system into fighting allergies.

"Along this line of thinking, dogs are larger, and are more likely to lick you in the face compared to cats," he added."

SOURCE: Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, February 2004.

I quite like the idea that dirt is actually somewhat healthy. The current fascination with sterile environments seems to me to be part and parcel of the idea of risk-free life, which is itself something of an oxymoron. Life by its very nature is random, spontaneous, and therefore risky. The concept of a risk-free environment or life is one that I find actually abhorrent. This is probably one of the reasons that I like living in Egypt. Risk is part of the life here. We don't have liability insurance for every little eventuality, and that is just fine with me. If people want to ride with me, they wear a helmet, I make sure that we don't do anything truly stupid, and if they fall off, I'll get them medical attention but suing me is not part of the bargain. Riding horses is a risky activity.

Likewise, having a spotless house in Egypt is a hopeless task. With the quantity of dust that circulates 24/7, everything that you eat, drink or breathe is going to be somewhat contaminated. This doesn't mean that it's all right not to wash or to clean the fruit and vegetables. I take care that my food is as clean as possible, and visitors to Egypt who stay in my home have never come down with the dreaded intestinal diseases that so many seem to expect. It's just that the PERFECTLY clean surface is a pipe dream. And now the doctors are there to tell you that this is probably a very good thing.

I have an instant allergy prevention at my home with my ten dogs. I don't lock them up when people come over, which bothers some people. They are welcome not to visit. The dogs do not bite, don't chew on visitors' shoes, and the ones who are likely to try to sit on someone's lap are, on the whole, the size of cats, so this is not entirely inappropriate behaviour. It's nice to know, though, that they are serving a higher purpose than keeping my kitchen floor free of any dropped cookies and keeping my lap warm while I type.