Our children these days are too clean, say researchers. Rather than it keeping them healthy, over-sterilising them and their environments leave them more vulnerable to illnesses.
Sounds strange – but it’s true.
Author of the book, Dirt is Good: The Advantage of Germs for Your Child’s Developing Immune System, Professor Gilbert explains, “Parents are over-sterilising the environments of their children because they don’t understand why dirt is good for us. Most parents think all germs are bad, that is not true. Most will just stimulate your immune system and make you stronger.”
And so, ironically, when we ensure that our children never touch a speck of dirt, are scrubbed from top to bottom three times a day, and never get to play outdoors – we are really making them weaker. If your child is often sick, it may be because he’s too “clean”.
A child who’s constantly ill with a runny nose, sniffles and fevers, has a weakened immune system, and is often sensitive or allergic to certain allergens. A weakened immune system will allow any dormant allergy to resurface.
Researchers believe that many of these allergies can be minimised by allowing children to go outside and get dirty. Exposure to germs, parasites and bacteria is helpful and necessary in developing your child’s immune system.
Which brings us to the question: how dirty can you get?
5 ways to get dirty
- As soon as he heads outside, you cover him with a scarf, a beanie and a puffer jacket. A little exposure to the elements is good for your child! Stop bundling him up. He needs to feel the wind, get some sun and breathe in outdoor air to build up that immune system!
- Ease up on the hand sanitiser. It’s become a crutch to many of us, but what you’re really doing is creating superbugs who become immune to the antibacterial soaping agents. Teach your child to wash his hands regularly (after going to the bathroom, before eating, etc) but don’t overdo it with the hand wipes and sanitisers.
- Medication is not a one-size-fits-all cure! If you rush off for antiviral medication or antibiotics as soon as your little one gets the sniffles, you’re creating a bigger problem. If the doctor prescribes antibiotics, you can give it to your child. But if you constantly give him over-the-counter medication for every ache and pain, you could be making him sicker in the long run. Unless your child is very sick and needs medical care, look for natural ways to boost his immunity.
- Consider getting a pet. Cats and dogs can expose your child to various living organisms. Just make sure they have all their vaccinations and necessary procedures first!
- Robust kids can play well with others, that is, they can stand to be in the company of other kids without falling sick all the time. Schedule play dates, let them run around in the garden together and share their toys. This is a healthy type of exposure.
The good bacteria
Probiotics are helpful bacteria found in some foods like live-culture yoghurt and can be used to restore the balance in the gut. They’re also effective in preventing and treating diarrhoea in children. They’re safe to take because they contain bacteria that are found naturally in the digestive tract. Younger children can take probiotics through probiotic drinking straws or chewable tablets while older children can have them in capsule form. Speak to your pharmacist for more information on the right probiotic.