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Want healthy kids? Let them eat dirt

It appears the more things change, the more they stay the same. Or at least they come full circle at times.
It seems that the “new health experts” today report they have found a magical way to build up a child’s immune system … let them play outside.
Well, isn’t that a great revelation!
Not only play outside but, my gawd, get dirty playing in the dirt, grass and on playgrounds that have not been thoroughly sanitized to death. What a radical turnaround from the current germ-free phobia that has dominated the past generation or two!
So now kids should play outside? Wow, who would have thunk it!
The problem, however, will be how to pry the electronics from their paws and toss the kids out the door. May have to teach them how to play or use their imaginations, too.
With this latest revelation, I feel like I’ve been jettisoned back to my childhood where nearly every kid had the mumps, chicken pox and other childhood diseases. We built up our immune systems the old-fashioned way, we earned them.
The current call to play outside is exactly what we did as kids … outside in the dirt, and it didn’t seem to hurt us much.
My neighborhood was perhaps like all neighborhoods of the 1950s and 1960s. We had all kinds of kids of all ages, shapes and abilities.
A big difference, perhaps, was my neighborhood had a kid who liked to eat angle worms. Unwashed, of course. Actually, we had two kids who would eat the wiggly things right out of the ground.
I wouldn’t recommend such practices today, but it was great entertainment for us non-worm-eating types. Those worm-eaters made a few nickels by winning bets. Ah, you do remember nickels, don’t you?
But the real coup de grace was the neighborhood kid who could shoot a blueberry out his nose. I saw it one time when we got him laughing so hard that a blueberry he was eating came out his nose and rolled across the table. We were mesmerized.
As only boys would do, we asked him to do it again. However, he could never duplicate the feat, no matter how hard he tried.
In today’s world, the blueberry-blowing kid might have been traumatized, or sent in for a psychological evaluation. Back then, he just picked up the blueberry and ate it. That was even before the “five-second rule” about dropped food.
Oh, how times have changed. But they appear to be on the rebound. Now if we can ban hand sanitizers from every room in the house, we might make some progress in rebuilding our youths’ immune systems.
“Let them eat dirt!” is the newest call to mobilize. But I’d bypass the worms if I were you. They weren’t that tasty.
Rich Glennie was the editor of The Chronicle for 23 years. He retired Aug. 1, 2014, but still plans to submit an occasional column