It’s in a child’s nature to be curious and explore the world. One of the easiest ways to learn and explore, of course, is to touch things in their environment – and sometimes, dirty things. But, are you being overprotective when you rub anti-bacterial on your child’s hands after every time he or she discovers a new object or picks up dropped food off the floor? Are your hyper-hygienic habits unnecessary, and possibly harmful to your kid? Are germs actually good for your kids? Research answers yes to all of the above!
Hygiene hypothesis is an emerging line of thinking which asserts that when you limit your child’s exposure to parasites, bacteria and viruses early in life, they have a greater chance of developing asthma, allergies and other autoimmune diseases in adulthood. The prevalence of allergies has actually increased in the past 15 years, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Many immunologists are blaming over-cleanliness as a factor. So, a dirty environment can actually boost you kid’s immune system! Surprise surprise! Encourage your kids to run around, explore and play in the mud. After all, kids have been doing just that since the beginning of time!
Germs Could Lead to Cardiovascular Health
According to a study done by Northwestern University, published in the online journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, exposure to common germs early in life could lead to good cardiovascular health in adulthood. “Contrary to assumptions related to earlier studies, our research suggests that ultra-clean, ultra-hygienic environments early in life may contribute to higher levels of inflammation as an adult, which in turn increases risks for a wide range of diseases,” says Thomas McDade, associate professor of Anthology at Northwestern University and lead author of the study. “In the U.S we have this idea that we need to protect infants and children from microbes and pathogens at all possible costs, but we may be depriving developing immune networks of important environmental input needed to guide their function throughout childhood and into adulthood.” It’s rather simple really; if your kid isn’t exposed to germs, then how could he ever become immune to them?
5 Second Rule – OK or Not?
So, while “germaphobe” parents wouldn’t even think to allow their child to follow the 5 second rule when it comes to a dropped piece of food, it’s actually pretty legitimate. By eating that dropped piece of food, your child could be exposed to bacteria that will help, not hurt, his immune system. If that’s too much of a big step for you, allow your kid to play in the dirt for a bit without your anti-bacterial wipes on hand – it won’t hurt him!