In the last 5o years we have made it a priority to protect our kids from germs. With vaccines, antibiotics, antibacterial soaps and cleansers, germs just don’t stand a chance. Is there a risk of being too clean when it comes to a child’s developing immune system? Are we being germophobic when it comes to our kids?
There is a tremendous amount of learning in a child’s early years. Like with a developing brain, it is possible there is a critical period for learning an immune response as well. According to a study done by The American Society for Microbiology, children develop an immune response to common bacteria early on. Some researchers believe the window of opportunity for affecting the developing immune system may actually occur during the first year of a child’s life and not developing it can mean difficulty in catching up later. Just as a toddler has to learn what “hot” means, the immune system has to learn how to tell good bacteria from bad. One way a child’s immune system does this is through encounters of endotoxins, a substance given off by bacteria when they die. It’s found in dust and around animals. As bad as it sounds, fecal matter is loaded with them and may actually contribute to a stronger immune system. Studies have shown children living on farms with a high exposure to endotoxins have far less risk of developing allergies and asthma. While it’s not possible for everyone to live on a farm, a study led by UCSF U Michigan scientists show how having pets can have a similar affect.
There is a definite balance between healthy living and clean living. With the advances in combating infectious diseases, parasites and other pathogens along with excessive cleanliness from anti-bacterial soaps and cleansers, researchers believe this could be contributing factor to the increase in allergies and asthma among children. Not only are many of the anti-bacterial soaps bad because they contain triclosan which studies have shown to be an endocrine disruptor, but may contribute to superbugs as well. The combination of a low immune system response and superbugs is a bad combination. Add nutrient depleted foods and more artificial help from vaccines and antibiotics to the mix and the body’s immune system can become even lazier. The immune system of today just is not able to fight the germs like our ancestors.
So instead of grabbing the anti-bacterial hand sanitizers and anti-bacterial cleansers and sprays, use regular soap and water and don’t panic when your baby picks up a cracker off the dirty floor or you find them making sand castles in the cat box (yes I found my kid doing this!). As hard as it may be, look at it as helping them build a stronger immune system. The exposure to germs can have a protective effect so they develop the right defensive responses. A dose of dirt can be good for them!
5 Phases is dedicated to helping families achieve a healthier and organic lifestyle. Starting with baby, we develop products keeping both the environment and health of your family in mind. Learn more @ www.5phases.com follow us on twitter @5_Phases and like our Facebook page to help spread the word about healthy starts for infants.