It’s pretty much a given that when a new parent is expecting their first child, an endless wave of advice will follow. Sometimes it can be annoying, and sometimes the “advice” makes you wonder how the giver’s children ever survived to adulthood. But for the most part this tradition of passing down the knowledge of how to rear our young is a good thing, especially in those first few months when we really have no idea what we’re doing. Expecting parents will read books, take classes, watch documentaries, research on the internet, ask their doctor a million questions, and still, in the end, everything is unexpected. Therefore it’s great to have people around you to pass information down, even if not all of it turns out to be helpful.
My daughter is almost two and a half now, and I like to think I’ve learned a few things. Though what I have to say won’t necessarily be helpful to everyone, I thought I’d share because it will be helpful to someone.
For my first installment, I thought I’d talk about germs.
This is a touchy subject for some, I know, especially those who are squeamish or have serious issues with germs, but here’s what I know: germs will not kill your child. Seems logical enough, right? And yet we have a veritable epidemic of children being scoured multiple times a day, disinfected at regular intervals, and denied some of life’s little joys because they might get a bit of dirt on them.
This might be hard for some people to believe, but Google it, I dare you. Some germs are good for you. In fact, we have bacteria all over our bodies at all times that are actually essential to our health. Dirt – the good old fashioned kind that your grass and flowers grow in – is actually filled with tons of good bacteria as well. It’s been studied and shown that kids who play in the dirt are healthier because they get more access to these good “germs”. And this last one is going to be a real shocker: guess how your body learns how to fight sickness? That’s right. Germs. Your body learns how to fight germs by being exposed to them. It’s no different from training your mind. If you do a little bit of math every year up until you’re a teenager you’re going to understand it a hell of a lot better than if you were kept away from math until you were a teenager and then had it all thrown at you at once. The immune system is the same way. It can’t learn how to deal with germs it’s never seen.
I’ve seen it dozens of times: mothers chase their children around with wet-naps, bathe them twice a day, and won’t let them touch their toys until they’ve been disinfected with every kind of chemical out there, and then they can’t figure out why their kid seems to get every single cold that goes around. On the flip side of things, my husband and I are very lenient on this front with our daughter and she is rarely ever sick. She’s only had one full-on cold that I can recall (which we all had…it was a rough one), but other than that even when she seems to feel a little under the weather she’s better within a day. The kid is extremely resilient, and yes, I believe it’s because we let her play in the dirt, we can handle her going a day without having a bath, and we clean her toys only when they are genuinely filthy. She gets exposure to things that build up her immune system, and so far it seems to be working quite well.
So go ahead, for goodness sakes…plop your kid in the front yard and let them eat some grass. Unless you’ve pumped it full of fertilizers and weed-killers I promise it won’t hurt them. It might even help them.
One thought on “Things I Know About Kids – Germs”
I don’t have any kids yet, just a dog, but he’s definitely taught me a bit about germs. 😉 I completely agree, though – when I was a kid I played outside all the time, took baths only every other day, and did not use a bunch of disinfectant or hand sanitizers and I hardly ever got sick, so there’s definitely something to that whole good germs thing.