Put down the mops and step away from the sponges! It turns out that that old adage "A little dirt won't hurt" is right—especially when it comes to allergies.
A new study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that exposure to cat dander, a wide variety of bacteria and even rodent and roach detritus (ew!) when your baby's under the age of one can help reduce the risk that she'll develop allergies and asthma later on. (Kids who weren't exposed to a wide variety of pathogens early on were three times more likely to develop wheezing and allergies as those who grew up in dirtier households.) But you'd better hurry and get her that kitten fast—if you start the exposure after age one, you'll actually increase the likelihood that she'll develop allergies. "It was the opposite of what we expected," Dr. Robert Wood, chief of the division of allergy and immunology at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center and co-author of the study, told NBC News. "We're not promoting bringing rodents and cockroaches into the home, but this data does suggest that being too clean may not be good."
The researchers theorize that the exposure to dirt gives the immune system something real to fight against, keeping your kid's immune system from doing battle with harmless things like peanuts. It's the exact opposite of what we've been told all along for allergies—my mom busted her butt keeping the house clean to deal with my issues with dust and pet dander.
So maybe you don't want to start letting mice nibble in your pantry, but this is definitely a good excuse to hang up the mop and let your kiddo play on the (dirty) floor with you. And if your baby dips her binky in the dirt or sand before putting it back in her mouth, you probably shouldn't worry too much!
Baby Care Basics: Allergies
Image: Mom cleaning by Martin Novak/Shutterstock.com