How Clean is Too Clean for the Health of My Child?

Health & Wellness on 09.16.11
Contributor bio | twitter

Photo: Innuendo/Creative Commons

Sometimes I worry about the impression this blog will give of my parenting. From an obsession with poop to a willingness to put my child in danger, I can see how some of my musings could be taken the wrong way. And then there's this...

I was thinking the other day about how important it is for my child to eat dirt.

It is high time that we drop the quest for a sanitized, ultra-clean environment. As fellow Parentables contibutor Christine (who knows a whole lot more about chemicals and child safety than I do) already explained, exposure to dirt and dust are important in building up our immune systems. Yet everywhere we go - from preschool to other kids' houses - there is an expectation that we will wash our kids' hands umpteen times a day, and generally ensure a germ-free child. (If that is not an oxymoron, I don't know what is!)

A while back, Lloyd Alter reported over at TreeHugger that exposure to dirt may not just be an accidental immune booster. Some reasearchers suggest that we deliberately expose ourselves to germs and pathogens, and that it may even be healthy to eat a little dog poop. I'm not likely to let my child near dog poop any time soon, but still, it's a useful reminder that the world doesn't end when they get into something they shouldn't.

Much like the importance of scary stories in introducing the real world, there is, of course, a balance to be had. I do wash my daughter's hands after she goes to the bathroom. I do wipe her face after dinner. And she gets more baths than her treehugging father. And yes, when I visit a pre-school, or someone else's house, I abide by the rules of my host. But I am hereby suggesting that we all learn to tolerate a little dirt. And maybe even let our kids enjoy it too.

Any thoughts out there on how to deal with the expectations of others for an over-sanitized child?

Top Articles on Dirt, Health and Child Development
Why Your Kids' First Pet Should Be a Dust Bunny
Why I Vow to Put My Child in Danger
Ask The Chemist: How to Clean Toys