It’s a well known fact that kids touch everything and anything in site. Doesn’t matter how disgusting it may be to you, through the eyes of a child it begs to be explored! Of course, it’s normal and natural. However, when your 2-year old starts chewing on a piece of gum she found stuck under a restaurant table, there is cause for alarm.
After a year of swine flu scares and hand sanitizer sell-outs, moms everywhere have become near-obsessed with cleanliness—and rightfully so with 36,000 dead from the regular flu last year alone. The scary part is that mostly children and the elderly make up this number. So of course we’re going to protect our kids from germs!
But have we gone too far?
Mary Ruebush, author of Why Dirt Is Good: 5 Ways to Make Germs Your Friends, believes we have. She insists that children need germs in their lives, especially during the early years. She says that a lack of germs and over-washing has been linked to the formation of severe illnesses such as diabetes and multiple sclerosis in children.
Dr. Ruebush is not alone in her beliefs. A mounting body of research suggests that exposing infants to germs may offer them greater protection from illnesses later on in life.
This line of thinking, called the “hygiene hypothesis,” holds that when children are limited to exposure of parasites, bacteria and viruses early in life, they face a greater chance of developing allergies, asthma and other autoimmune diseases during adulthood.
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.
If this is true then it begs the question: Are we are actually doing our kids more harm by keeping them germ free? No one is suggesting throwing out the bathwater, but rather toning it down a little. Experts suggest using antibacterial products in moderation and letting your kids actually play in the mud. Really? Yes!
So, what do you think? Have we gone too far to keep our kids germ-free?