Little kids are notorious for wanting to taste test every single item that crosses their path. This inherent curiosity can drive parents crazy, especially when you consider the crazy contagious flu seasons that we’ve seen in recent years. But how much do we need to wash, disinfect, and sanitize every surface in our lives? The answers are a bit surprising.
Exposure To Germs Might Help Build The Best Immune Systems
Recent research suggests that germ exposure in infanthood may help protect babies from illnesses like allergies and asthma later in their lives. When exposure to bacteria and viruses is limited early on, children have higher chances of experiencing autoimmune diseases in adulthood.
In the same way that a developing brain needs stimulation for healthy development, a young immune system needs exposure to common germs so that it can develop and regulate itself.
Germs Have Been Here For Millennia
Many of the microbes around us have existed alongside humanity for hundreds of thousands of years. When an infant grows up in an overly sanitized environment, they don’t get the chance to build early defenses against germs that are, for the most part, totally normal.
“I’d like to see a recalibration toward common sense,” McDade told WebMD. “You don’t have to wash or sanitize everything.”
As with most things, moderation and balance are our friends—and there are plenty of things living inside of us that are already a bit gross. Human bodies are actually inhabited by anywhere from three to 10 times as many nonhuman cells as human cells. That’s right: There can be more viruses, fungi, and bacteria in your body than the stuff that actually makes up your body.
So What Should You Do?
Don’t fear the germs and teach your children about hygiene. There’s a difference between playing in the dirt and eating garbage, after all. A healthy diet and plenty of exercise will go much further in a healthy upbringing than seriously excessive use of hand sanitizer!