As parents, we are incredibly protective of our little ones, which is why we spend most of our time with hand sanitiser and tissues in hand.
As it turns out, though, a little dirt isn’t so bad for our children – in fact, it has actually been found to be good for them!
This is the call of scientist Jack Gilbert, from the University of Chicago, who has just dedicated an entire book to the subject.
In Dirt Is Good: The Advantages of Germs for Your Child’s Developing Immune System, Dr Gilbert explores research proving that exposure to germs actually stimulates children’s immune systems. This, in turn, strengthens them against illness.
Opening up about his research, Dr Gilbert explained how modern living has had a negative impact on little ones’ immunity.
“Now we live indoors. We sterilise surfaces. Their immune systems become hyper-sensitised,” he told NPR.
“You have these little soldier cells in your body called neutrophils, and when they spend too long going around looking for something to do, they become grumpy and pro-inflammatory. And so, when they finally see something that’s foreign – like a piece of pollen – they become explosively inflammatory – that’s what triggers asthma and eczema and, often times, food allergies.”
In research that Dr Gilbert conducted with his own team, he revealed that exposure to dirt was ‘actually beneficial’ for the test subjects.
“That dirty pacifier that fell on the floor – if you just stick it in your mouth and lick it, and then pop it back in little Tommy’s mouth, it’s actually going to stimulate their immune system. Their immune system is going to become stronger because of it,” he added.
Well, mums – what’s the verdict? Will you be following Dr Gilbert’s advice, or sticking by your regimental cleaning routine?