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.
Wednesday 19th of July 2017
As the mother of five boys, I fully support this article... in theory. We don't need to freak out about a little dirt or a few (billion) germs. (Unless that pacifier dropped onto the floor of the doctor's office or the parking lot or a puddle of standing water or a public bathroom floor (gag)... sure, give it back, I guess.) What I do take issue with is the presumption that allergies, asthma, and eczema are chronic conditions of which we know the cause.
Take my second-born child. He had THE MOST exposure of any of my children to animals as a newborn. (We lived with family members during a transitional time from the time he was 2 weeks-5 months old who had two large dogs.) He had the most exposure to "germs" between traveling on an airplane, and living with family... and also having moved back from another state to our home state, we had lots of visitors. He got all his vaccines on time too (though he started a month late (3 months old) due to our family's transitions)...until he had severe reactions to them around his 1st Birthday. But but by that time, he had already been diagnosed with very severe allergies to: dust, dogs, cats, peanuts (to later include tree nuts), milk protein, egg whites, egg yolks, and soy. He had asthma events though he was too young at the time to formally be diagnosed with asthma. He had severe eczema head to toe from the time he was just over three months old (he's now 8 and still has issues). He has asthma now, and has been diagnosed with a multitude of other allergens--to everything that pollinates from the thaw to the first frost.
I popped the pacifier back in. He was licked by dogs. He crawled around in the grass. He had lots of visitors. And of my five children, he is the ONLY ONE with allergies, eczema, and asthma. He also has an incredible immune system. He is almost never sick. And when he is, he gets a fever of 104, sleeps for a day or two, hardly waking to eat, and bounces right back. I personally believe that his immune system is TOO efficient. That all the exposures and immune system triggers caused his little body to overreact, NOT act more efficiently and appropriately. So, while I can appreciate the tone of this article and what you're going for, I fundamentally disagree with the notion that doing these things will work to prevent chronic conditions. My son is living proof that it isn't always the case.