A Little Bit of Dirt Is Good for Your Immune System
I have been saying this for years. A little bit of dirt won’t hurt you. Giving our children and ourselves a clean environment to thrive in is a no-brainer. It makes sense. But are we making our lives just a bit too sterile; harming our immune systems more than we are protecting them?
The experts at WebMD recently published an article on their website with helpful tips on how to keep your children healthy without going overboard when it comes to sanitizing. Here are some highlights from their suggestions.
The Hygiene Hypothesis – What is It?
Simply stated, the hygiene hypothesis theorizes that infants exposed to certain germs tend to have a greater immunity to illnesses like asthma or allergies. Limiting exposure to parasites, bacteria, and viruses during early childhood may do more harm than good. Limiting exposure can lead to an adulthood plagued with allergies and other illnesses.
Of course no one is saying to actively seek out a dirty environment, but if you forget the hand sanitizer once in a while you will not be condemning your child to a lifetime of illness.
Germs: Bad or Good For You?
Germs get a bad wrap. We have millions of germs existing on the surface of our skin and internally at any given moment. We literally live with germs every moment of our lives. Eradicating all germs is impossible and to do so would create weaker immune systems.
Living in a germ-free bubble does more harm than good. Obviously you would not knowingly expose your child to a bacteria or virus, but our bodies are adaptable and capable of fighting off those bad germs.
WebMD speaks briefly about the over-usage of antibiotics.
In addition to overzealous hygiene campaigns that may prevent kids from exposure to natural microorganisms that are good for them, there are other practices — like the overuse of antibiotics — that threaten to make us less healthy, not more.
I have to agree with them on this point. Give your body a chance to defend itself. Save the antibiotics for when the body absolutely cannot fight off a virus. You might be surprised at how capable and strong a body is when given a chance.
What Should Parents Do?
Find a happy medium. Striking a balance is the ultimate way to keeping your family healthy.
- Clean your home once a week with disinfecting products.
- Schedule yearly examinations with your child’s pediatrician to discuss growth and any concerns.
- Encourage your children to wash their hands after using the bathroom and before meals.
- Buy stock in hand sanitizer. Limit the amount of hand sanitizer used.
- Over-medicate your child. Common colds will run their course and there are natural ways to relieve discomfort from sore throats, runny noses, etc.
- Wash and sanitize everything in your home. Living in an absolute sterile environment weakens the immune system.
Do you agree or disagree that we over-sterilize our children’s environments? How do you keep your family healthy?