Why Germs are Good for Kids

Listen up, Germaphobes!  Yes, you!  You with your hand sanitizer and your anti-bacterial soap, and all of your strict rules about not sharing bottles or –gasp!– cleaning your kid’s pacifier by sucking on it.  That’s gross, right?

Why Germs are Good for KidsPin for later!

Turns out that sucking on your child’s pacifier might NOT in fact be so gross.  In fact, this might actually be GOOD for kids.


A new study out of Sweden adds to recent evidence on kids and bacteria and germs, indicating that some exposure to bacteria and germs benefits children.  The study is reporting that infants whose parents sucked on their childrens’ pacifiers to clean them developed fewer allergies than children whose parents tended to rinse or boil them.  Children of these parents also had lower rates of eczema and fewer signs of asthma.

So for those of you who have wondered “is bacteria good or bad” or is a bit of “clean-dirt” ok, this study seems to say YES, germs, bacteria and dirt are GOOD in some normal amounts.

Interpreting these findings, the New York Times explains why germs and bacteria can be good for kids as follows:

The findings add to growing evidence that some degree of exposure to germs at an early age benefits children, and that microbial deprivation might backfire, preventing the immune system from developing a tolerance to trivial threats.

In other words, back off clean freak mammas and papas and let the kiddies run a bit wild outside and get nice and dirty!  And don’t stress so much about the exchange of saliva, either…

OK, so, WOW.  I’ve always tried to practice good hygiene and have generally avoided sharing bottles with my kids.  On occasion I’m sure I sucked on a pacifier in an emergency situation but generally I did try to rinse them in hot water.  In terms of dirt, my kids do get dirty but I don’t let them STAY dirty for too long.  Seems like I might have been wrong?

One other thing to take note of: The Times points out that the study found that the group with the lowest prevalence of eczema, about 20 percent, were born vaginally and had parents who cleaned their pacifiers in their mouths.

Maybe it’s time some of us germaphobes took a chill pill and got a bit friendlier to good ‘ole dirt?  And that 5 second rule when things fall on the ground is looking pretty good to me right now!  That’s what I’m thinking…You?

Moms, weigh in!  How are germs treated in your house?  Have you tried to keep your kids TOO clean?