• Children's Center

    In the Loop: Let Them Eat Dirt (or At least play in It)

a little girl playing on a dirt road in the mudCleanliness is next to godliness. Just ask any parent kneeling before a new baby. Suddenly, the world and all its filthy surfaces — not to mention its filthy humans — seem teeming with danger. To protect their precious progeny, many parents discover a clean gene they didn't know they had. A baby arrives, and the guy who used to live by the five-second rule begins offering hand-washing tutorials and doling out hand sanitizer. But according to an article in the Chicago Tribune, a little dirt never hurts. And it turns out, it just may help — especially those five and under.

"Early exposure to their environment full of germs, bacteria and viruses is not a bad thing," Angela Mattke, M.D., tells the paper. Dr. Mattke, a pediatrician at Mayo Clinic Children's Center in Rochester, notes that parents "are very concerned, almost preoccupied, with their child touching a surface that is not clean." But it turns out that early exposure to the dirtier stuff in life — things like "bacteria and other microbes" — can actually be "crucial to our health." That's because "beneficial microbiota helps build immunity in babies and children, and has a role in preventing allergies, asthma, obesity and other noninfectious conditions," according to the paper. Read the rest of the article.
This story originally appeared on the In the Loop blog.