Allergists are studying the benefits of letting your kid play in the dirt, and they suggest that it can help prevent allergies. Many parents are afraid of the illnesses dirt and grime can bring, but experts recommend children’s exposure to them to build up their immune system. It is important to note, however, that this does not mean that a child should be constantly put in unhygienic conditions.
A lot of research is being done on the exposure of kids to certain allergens. In this case, allergists want to know for certain if protecting the body’s barriers (the skin and the lining of respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts) is detrimental to the development of a child’s allergen resistance. While not all dirty environments are good for kids, exposure to some bacteria in certain contexts is good for them.
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Allergists call this revised perception on dirt as the Hygiene Hypothesis. As sanitation techniques became better and more accessible, our general exposure to certain organisms that trained our immune system decreased. In light of this, allergists have studied the immune system of kids who grew up on farms. They found that those who were raised in a rural area were less likely to have allergies and asthma. Studies revealed that molecules from soil-dwelling bacteria are beneficial for promoting the immune system; the body is able to better identify threats from non-threats.
A crucial exception to this hypothesis, however, is vaccines. Unlike antibiotics, which generally target whatever infection, vaccines are made specifically to protect kids from certain disease-causing organisms. Apart from that, it’s important not to take the hygiene hypothesis too far. Children who grow up in unsanitary conditions and drink unclean water will suffer from diarrheal diseases and can be exposed to certain parasites that stunt growth. It’s still important to have a general sense of hygiene.
Allergists recommend outside play, trying new foods, and exposing themselves to a variety of different things. As long as they’re completely vaccinated, kids can play and explore as much as they wish. When it comes to bath time or before meals, using plain soap and water to get rid of excess dirt is enough. Sanitizing everything may not be the best for developing a good immune system. In a house with clean air, water, and general environment, a kid should be able to play and get dirty sometimes.