We’ve all seen her: the frazzled mom who has too much going on and is pushing a baby in a stroller and has no hands left for anything. Then, the baby spits out the pacifier. What does mom do? Picks it up, pops it into her own mouth, and gives it back to baby. So. Gross. What is wrong with that mom? Doesn’t she know she’s got a billion germs in her mouth and she just gave all billion of them to her precious little bundle of joy? Well, turns out that’s not actually a bad thing. Yes she just stuck a germy pacifier in her little one’s gob, but that little one’s immune system is about to kick in and tackle those germs – which will help it be stronger later on. So yeah, know those gross moms who suck the pacifier before popping it back in? Turns out their kids are healthier! Who knew!?
Know Those Gross Moms Who Suck The Pacifier Before Popping It Back In? Turns Out Their Kids Are Healthier!
Ever wonder why kids today seem to get sicker than when you were little? A lot of it is the sanitized world we live in. Kids aren’t supposed to be this clean. Waaaaay back in the day kids were exposed to more germs. They ate more fermented foods (fermentation helped foods keep longer) which contained healthy bacteria. They also played in the dirt more and spent more time around animals. All that exposure to bacteria and germs was surprisingly good for them! Our immune systems need testing and growing just like the rest of us, and by trying to keep our kids safe and healthy, we’ve actually set them up to be more vulnerable to illnesses such as asthma, eczema, allergies, and more.
So yeah, that mom you always judge because her kids are a little on the dirty side? There’s a a good chance her kids are going to grow up with a more robust immune system because of it.
That’s not saying you need to let your kids get nasty, or let them stay dirty, but like your grandma always said, “A little dirt don’t hurt” and, in fact, it’s actually super beneficial!
So here’s what happens: our body has these little battle droids marching around looking for baddies to attack. They’re called “neutrophils.” A neutrophils entire job is to fight off the little micro germs we get from everyday grossness.
But when kids don’t get exposed to as many germs, neutrophils can’t do their job. So after a while they start getting grumpy. They keep on searching and searching for something to attack (’cause that’s pretty much their only job) and if they haven’t gotten to fight in a while, they go absolutely berserk on the first thing they come across. That means if your kid stays super clean, but then comes in contact with a little bit of pollen, rather than just a scuffle, the neutrophils drop atom bombs.
Boom. Asthma. And allergies. And major issues.
But if you work these little guys out, let them attack all the little bitty things your kids might do like licking dirty fingers, and eating food off the floor, and kissing dog’s on the lips, and other grossness, when the pollen comes along the neutrophil’s all, “Pfft. That little guy? He’s nothing.” And instead of a huge reaction, your child might sneeze.
A sneeze is WAY better than a visit to the ER.
So what are some ways you can let your kids get dirty without losing your ever loving mind?
Let them play with animals.
5-second rule? No problem!*
Mud pies are our friends.
Hand sanitizer? Into the trash!
Don’t panic if your kid drinks after another kid.
Barefoot outside? Yes, please!
Clean, but don’t over clean.
Okay, there actually is a difference between good germs and bad germs…so maybe don’t go completely overboard, but don’t freak out every time your child has a speck of dirt on them, either. Robust immune systems come from exposure to germs…with no exposure, our kids won’t get the chance to build up their tolerance to everyday exposure while they’re little. And they need that in order to be healthy adults!
*Note on the 5-second rule: I’m not saying let your kid eat a piece of toast that fell butter side down. But if you see your kiddo drop a cookie and pick it up and eat it anyway…don’t freak out. They’re gonna be just fine.
Want to know more about how dirt is good for your kiddo’s? Check out Dirt Is Good by Jack Gilbert Ph.D. and Robert Knight Ph.D.