If there is one thing I’ve learned since becoming a dad, it’s that children are disgusting little incubators of sickness.

Their immune systems are blank canvasses ready for overtaking, and different forms of virus are lined up like armadas ready to strike.

Sniffling and sneezing is the norm. As is drooling and runny noses.

It’s a sequence of events that goes against our society that has become obsessed with being clean.

Hand sanitizers can be spotted throughout countless office buildings and malls, and anti-bacterial soaps are ever-popular.

All of this comes at a time when mounting evidence highlights that one of the best things to do for our health is digging in and getting dirty.

An interesting New York Times feature recently reported on the growing range of research that promotes exposing the body to a diverse group of microscopic creatures, especially during childhood, means a healthier immune system.

Key to all of this is microbiome in the gut, which are the trillions of bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract.

Studies have shown that exposure to these microbes in early years often lead to a lower likelihood of developing allergies and autoimmune diseases, such as asthma.

A similar University of Alberta study showed that infants from families with furry pets, including the family dog, show higher levels of two types of microbes connected to a lower risk for those diseases, as well as obesity.

So the next time your dog rolls out in the yard and then tracks a mess into the house, and onto your recently cleaned floors, embrace it — it’s a good thing!

More than once, Atticus has landed himself in the dog’s bed, or has moved in, mouth opened wide, as his canine companion gives him a good lick. To some, it may be “icky,” but as the research indicates, he is likely to be better off for it.

The microbiome is key in all of this, as it is also being researched for potential links to Crohn’s disease and other ailments.

None of this means ditching the soap entirely and playing in sewage to overcompensate for the major shift. Handwashing needs to continue in order to stave off the spread of disease.

The evidence, however, does suggest being dirty isn’t so bad.

Heck, your body might thank you.

—M.U.