Tuesday, March 27th, 2012
A new study published in the journal Science is reporting that when mice are exposed to germs early in their lives, they are ultimately healthier and better able to fight infections than mice that were not exposed to germs. The findings are being touted as encouragement to parents who worry about their children getting sick during toddlerhood and their early school years, concluding that those sniffles and bugs are actually teaching young immune systems to react–but not overreact–to potentially dangerous infections. Medical ethics professor Arthur Caplan of the University of Pennsylvania writes on MSNBC.com:
Parents are constantly being told to make their kitchens spotless, to kill 99.9 per cent of the germs lurking in their bathrooms and to wash themselves and their babies all the time.
This world of purity sounds good but it does not fit how we are designed. We are meant to encounter some microbes and dirt when we are young. It is how we built our immune systems. We need a certain amount of grunginess as kids to be healthy adults.
As the Harvard study shows, filth can be good — at least in tiny amounts when you are very young.
Image: Taking a child’s temperature, via Shutterstock