Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, MD, FFARCSI

Parents constantly worry about keeping their children clean and safe from harm. However, excessive sterilising of their environment can do them more harm than good. Studies prove that exposing kids to microbes present in the great outdoors can help their immune system become stronger and more robust. Wondering whether exposure to germs boost kids’ immune system? Here’s a small piece of read which explains how germ exposure is healthy for kids.

Can Exposure To Germs Boost Kids Immune System?

Can Exposure To Germs Boost Kids Immune System?

Parents’ fixation of indoor-centric, ultra-clean lifestyles is weakening the children's resistance against illnesses. Most parents believe that all germs are bad, but this is untrue. Actually, most germs just stimulate the immune system and make the child stronger. Sterilising the home like a hospital can make the child’s immune system hyper-sensitised leaving them more susceptible to allergies, asthma, and even neuro-developmental problems. Without exposure to germs and dirt early in life, the immune system does not learn how to control its reaction to regular invaders like pollen and dust. This can result in the immune system 'misfiring' later in life and causing allergies and other illnesses.

Researchers believe the immune systems of children of the previous era to be more robust than that of kids today. This is because of the fact that parents’ then had a more relaxed attitude to germs, and the children’s bodies were strengthened by exposure to a multitude of microbial interactions. To back this theory, studies were conducted on the immune profiles of Amish children, who lead an extremely simple lifestyle that was free of the modern amenities and in which farming played a key role. The research found that the youngsters who lived in small, microbe-rich farms and got exposed to germs had significantly lower rates of asthma. Today, when children do not get enough exposure to microbes, their immune system starts weakening, this in turn increases the chances of allergic response. So to boost their child’s immunity, overall health and well-being, parents should let their little one get a little exposure to germs by:

Avoid Sanitizers

When children play in mud in the garden, it is not necessary for the parents to immediately sterilise the children’s hands or faces. Compared to soapy water, hand sanitizers are far more damaging for a child's health. Thus these sanitizers should be avoided as much as possible. However, while cooking and handling meat, one should be extra cautious, as raw meat may contain many disease-causing pathogens. So, parents must sanitise their hands after working with raw meat. However, the exposure to germs which the kids’ get after playing in mud/dirt definitely helps in boosting their immune system.

Own a Pet

The fear of pets passing on the germs to kids is baseless. In fact, when a dog licks a child's face, it does not harm the child, but rather benefits the kid’s immune system. Even their faeces, as unpleasant as it is, does not cause any harm, all thanks to vaccination and general sanitation in today’s homes. A pet, like a dog, not only becomes a child’s most loyal companion, but also helps to boost a kid’s immune system. Studies have found that being exposed to pets from a young age decreases ones risk of obesity and also results in fewer allergies. Dogs in particular expose children to bacteria and dirt early in life, which creates early immunity. Research conducted on children and their mothers from the time of pregnancy showed that pre- and postnatal pet exposure enriched the gut with healthy amounts of two kinds of bacteria, Ruminococcus and Oscillospira, and also doubled their likelihood of multiplying in abundance, especially if the pet stayed in the house. Ruminococcus and Oscillospira have been linked with decreased risk of childhood allergies and obesity, respectively.

It’s Okay to Eat Dropped Food

Children should not be discouraged to pick up and have food from the ground. When food falls on the floor, plenty of microbes attach themselves to it within milliseconds. These microbes, when ingested, can help to strengthen the child’s immunity effectively. Eating the dropped food is safe most of the times, since in today’s modern homes, it is almost impossible to find surface areas with a high risk of extremely harmful pathogens.

Have Fermented Food

Children should be given more fermented food, which contains bacteria, in their daily meals. The microflora that thrives in fermented foods creates a protective lining in the intestines and guards it against pathogenic factors, like salmonella and E. coli. Some fermented foods, which can be included in the daily diet of kids are miso, pickles, tempeh, curd, natto and kimchi; all which help in boosting kids’ immune system.

Conclusion

So, parents should not worry about their child getting exposed to mud or pets. They should let their child play in the soil, eat food off the floor sometimes, rescue or pet a dog, and get a little bit dirty! They should let their child be happy and healthy. For children, a little bit of dirt and its germs are indeed good!

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD,FFARCSI

Pain Assist Inc.

Last Modified On: August 23, 2018

This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer

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