(fixed broken link and updated with corrected name of New York Times author)
When my oldest child was 9 months old, he got really picky about what he ate. His hands played goalie to his mouth and only a limited variety of foods was allowed in. Except the day he ate a junebug off the floor as he crawled around. I got there just in time to hear the crunch. It was gross. I’ll spare you the details.
Now the New York Times is saying here that kind of behavior might be instinctual, that babies who put everything in their mouths as soon as they get mobile might be protecting their immune system more than the ultraclean environments some live in today.
“In studies of what is called the hygiene hypothesis, researchers are concluding that organisms like the millions of bacteria, viruses and especially worms that enter the body along with “dirt” spur the development of a healthy immune system,” writes Jane E. Brody in the New York Times.
Experts she quoted speculate that the increase in the number of immune system disorders – like asthma, allergies or Type 1 diabetes – diagnosed each year may be related to the idea that we should keep our children from germs of any kind.
The lesson here is that while cleanliness is still a virtue, it’s OK to allow some dirt in your house, and your children don’t always have to wash their hands after touching it. And if they eat a junebug or a worm or some other disgusting thing they pick up off the floor, then they might actually be helping their immune systems.
~ Lillie-Beth Brinkman (email@example.com)