Is It Good To Expose Your Child to Germs?

Every day, your child is exposed to several germs – be it in the playground, while playing with a dog, and even on the floor. But, this might actually be more of a good thing than bad.

By Dr. Chaitali Laddad

Is It Good To Expose Your Child to Germs?

As a parent, you may try your best to keep your kid as clean as possible. Generous use of hand sanitisers, washing hands with soap and water, changing into a fresh set of clothes before entering the house, antibacterial cleaning wipes, etc. – you may use all these techniques, but your kids will eventually get dirty.

Since you cannot avoid this, the thought of your child getting infected must be on top of your mind always. Don't fret, however, since there is a silver lining to this too. Do you know that dirt and germs may be beneficial to your kid’s immunity?

In the article, Scientist Reveals Why It’s Important To Let Your Kids Be Exposed To Germs, published in the INDEPENDENT, writer Beth Timmins says nowadays parents are often guilty of over-sterilising their house environment. If it is possible for them, they would sterilise the environment outdoors as well, unaware of the fact that not all germs are bad.

But do healthy bacteria exist and can germs be beneficial to your child? Shouldn’t parents be building resistance and protecting their kids against germs?

What are the habits that can weaken your child's immunity? Read this ClipBook to find out.

According to WebMD, research on the “hygiene hypothesis” has suggested that far from exposing their kids to a host of illnesses through dirt, exposing children and infants to germs may offer them greater protection from illnesses such as allergies and asthma later in life. The article further states that when children have limited exposure to germs – parasites, bacteria and viruses early in childhood, they face a greater chance of contracting allergies, and asthma later.

In the article, ‘Expose your child to life with all its warts’ by Chandrima Pal, published in PuneMirror, Thom McDade, PhD, associate professor and director of the Laboratory for Human Biology Research at Northwestern University has said “Just as a baby’s brain needs stimulation, input, and interaction to develop normally, the young immune system is strengthened by exposure to everyday germs so that it can learn, adapt and regulate itself.”

Here are some ways to expose your child to germs under supervision:

Encourage your child to play barefoot outdoors in the dirt and grass. However, the playing area should be free from nails, shards of glass, or other sharp materials. Kids who play outdoors invariable return with dirt under their nails, mud all over and bits and pieces of weeds and grasses – all immune boosters.

Go easy on your use of antibacterial soaps. Constant usage of antibacterial soaps and sanitisers may inhibit immune development in your kids. Soap and water is enough to keep your kids clean.

Take a trip to the countryside or a farm. Take out time from your busy schedule and try to visit a farm where there are animals like sheep, horses and even fish. This will expose your child to germs and bacteria that they would not encounter in the city. Children who interact with pets like dogs and cats from a very young age are less likely to develop asthma or allergies.

Take your child hiking or on a walk outdoors regularly. If you keep your child in clean conditions all day long, she will have trouble building immunity to common allergens.

Give your child foods from different cultures. Foods like kimchi, pickles, yogurt, kombucha, etc., are made of varied ingredients from all parts of the country. Exposure to these foods will provide your child with nutrients that have health benefits. They are good for the digestive system and promote immunity against many illnesses.

So, the next time you are upset with your child for playing outdoors and getting her clothes and hands soiled, remember that exposure to germs may not be so unhealthy after all.

The author is Founder & Director, The Pediatric Network.

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