Why germs can be good for kids
When your baby gets sick, your mind and heart automatically start racing with concern that the worst could be happening. It’s an emotion you just cannot shut off until your pediatrician calms you and lets you know it’s normal to catch a cold or have a tummy ache. With practice, your baby will fight these germs off with his or her own immune system and you need to let it develop and do its work.
The advice sounds ok, but how do you interpret the advice to take mild illnesses in stride while being vigilant about illness prevention? Here’s a five point checklist for doing both.
1. You can’t win the war against bothersome germs without an immune system. There are HUNDREDS! of bacteria that live inside and outside of our bodies, and we need a strong immune system to recognize what’s okay and what’s not. Since our babies comes here with an unchallenged immune system it needs the opportunity to recognize some of these invaders, and fight off most of the bad germs naturally.
2. Children who are exposed early to mild bacterial and viral illnesses, and who fight them off without antibiotics, do have fewer illnesses once they start elementary school. CNN reported on a large research study with over 1200 families participating and it was specifically reported that child care centers were not the breeding ground for a lifetime of asthma or other illnesses, but an environment that armed the immune system.
3. In the past few years there have been lots of articles and news stories about over- sanitizing baby’s environment to prevent minor illnesses. Physicians are telling parents: Don’t prevent a normal “toughening up” by over medicating with unnecessary antibiotics and hyper vigilant cleanliness. Every child needs to be robust and healthy.
4. Nonetheless, we cannot drop the ball on several health care practices that support and sustain a strong immune system. If we don’t support the immune system with good practices, they can make our children vulnerable to a long list of bad “infectious agents” that need medical intervention. Here’s a list of widely cited good practices.
a. Breast feed a year if you can manage it and pass on your antibodies to your baby. That’s a quick leg up on germs.
b. Get plenty of sleep and make sure your baby gets lots of sleep too. Rest keeps us strong.
c. Go outdoors for fresh clean air, but always avoid sun exposure with sunscreen protection.
d. Get some exercise daily and the same for your children
e. Wash hands frequently and make it easy for your children to readily wash their hands too
f. Have good oral hygiene. Did you know that if you have cavities and kiss your toothless baby, his or her baby teeth are likely to have cavities too?
g. Eat healthfully with lots of fruits and vegetables
h. No second hand smoke around your children. It’s as compromising to their health as the first-hand smoking is to you.
Most importantly in protecting baby’s health we should always remember the immune system is our first defense. Our practices sustain and protect us. And prevention is ALWAYS better than intervention.