Children nowadays are too clean for their own good, according to scientists.
The evidence is expanding that our ultra-clean, home-based lifestyles are not so healthy, and that dirt and germs can safeguard us against allergies and diseases. So, if you’re feeling guilty that your home isn’t spick and span, don’t.
Modern hygiene standards restrict us from the exposure to both good and bad germs. But, both of them strengthen our immune system, the body’s mechanism responsible for maintaining our health.
There are diverse lifestyle factors that can weaken our immune system. Drinking too much, lack of exercise, stress, poor diets, family history of allergies and the use of antibiotics are the main ones.
The hypothesis of good hygiene suggests that being dirt-free isn’t as healthy as people think it is. In fact, good hygiene only focuses on averting and restraining the transmission of infections to others.
Without dirt and germs exposure early in life, our body doesn’t develop a proper reactivity to everyday invaders like pollen and dust.
Therefore, stop being so obsessively clean and let your kid roll in the mud every once in a while. The odd germs will save him from a lifetime of allergies such as asthma, hay fever, eczema, diabetes etc.
Prof. Jack Gilbert is a scientist of microbial ecosystems at the University of Chicago and a new parent.
He provides a lot of diverse bits of advice on how often you should sterilize your toddler’s pacifier or when to give him antibiotics. Gilbert explains that exposure to most germs is actually beneficial.
According to him, you should lick the dirty pacifier and then give it to your toddler instead of sterilizing it, in order to stimulate and boost his immune system.
He is the co-author of a new book which focuses on answering all the questions he gathered from parents over the years. The following interview has been edited for clarity and length.
What Do Parents Get Wrong?
Preventing the kids from ever getting dirty, keeping them away from animals and over-sterilizing the environment are the main things.
It’s okay to sterilize their hands or the environment when there is a cold virus lurking around. But, if they play around with a dog and their face gets licked, it’s not the end of the world.
As a matter of fact, it could be exceptionally beneficial for their overall well-being, Gilbert explains.
Are Sanitizers Good or Bad?
Portable hand sanitizers are very convenient and play a major role in hospitals and during the peak of respiratory virus season.
They help prevent the transmission of bacteria and viruses in the hospitals and make cleaning the hands much easier. But apart from that, they aren’t much of any use and are usually bad for you, according to Gilbert.
He recommends using mildly warm or hot soapy water prior to sanitizers, stating that they are less harmful to the overall health of the children.
Is Something Clean if it Sits on the Ground for Less Than 5 Seconds After It Fell Down?
The idea of a 5-second rule is a myth. It only takes a few milliseconds for bacteria and microbes to glue themselves to any kind of surface, regardless.
Unless it fell down in an area that seems to have extremely high risks of notorious pathogens, which is virtually impossible in a modern American home. A study following over 300.000 children and their parents on pacifiers, displays significant results.
Namely, parents who licked the pacifier once on the ground instead of washing or sterilizing it contributed to the improvement of their overall health by decreasing the chances of developing allergies, asthma, and eczema.
Are Allergies a Result of Parent’s Over-Protectiveness?
Definitely, according to Prof. Gilbert, that is the only reasonable explanation. Because in the past, as he explains, children exposed themselves to plants and animals more often.
Which is not the case now, when we live indoors and where we sterilize almost every surface. Hence, their neutrophils (little soldiers) in the immune system become grumpy, hyper-sensitized and pro-inflammatory.
In the lack of defensive tasks, the neutrophils go crazy and become explosively inflammatory when they get in touch with a foreign intruder, like pollen. This is the origin of asthma and eczema and in many instances – food allergies.
Implementing colorful, leafy vegetables that are rich in fiber and decreasing the sugar intake in your children’s diets is of a crucial value. But most importantly, Prof. Gilbert suggests that you allow your children to experience the world in the first place.
There are no threats whatsoever, as long as they are constantly vaccinated. Moreover, their immune systems will greatly improve from those strong and beneficial exposures we often consider unhealthy.
What is your opinion on this topic? Let us know in the comment section! And last but not least, be sure to share this article to raise the awareness of parents around the world.