Does Frequent Exposure to Germs Increase Immunity?

Like most new moms, when I had my first child I quickly became a germophobe. Everything had to be sterilized and hands thoroughly washed before even coming near the baby. Sound familiar? Of course, my daughter was also premature, which left her more susceptible than full-term babies. With my second child, I was much more lax about the situation. So does frequent exposure to germs increase immunity in your baby? It turns out there is some truth to this, but where do you cross the boundaries between beneficial and health hazardous?

Building Immunity by Exposure to Germs

A recent study conducted by the Hygiene Council showed that over 70% of parents do believe that regular exposure to germs increase immunity among young children. There is some truth to this. Many germs that you’re exposed to everyday are perfectly harmless. Think about all the things you touch in a typical day; door knobs, handles, buttons, switches, remote controls, etc. Your body becomes accustomed to the germs it encounters on a regular basis. Excessive efforts to sanitize everything possible can potentially have an adverse effect on the immune system. The next time your baby drops a toy and puts it in their mouth, you can breathe a little easier. Chances are your child won’t become sick from chewing on something that hits the floor. Letting your kids spend time outdoors can also be beneficial to their developing immune systems. A little bit of dirt won’t hurt them. Allowing your kids to experience quality time outdoors in the grass and dirt helps the body in learning how to react to these common microorganisms. When your body isn’t used to regular exposure to bacteria that may otherwise be harmless, it can overreact and lead to allergies. Have you ever watched an episode of funniest home videos where the parents are filming as the dog licks the baby’s face and shuddered at the thought? When we brought our daughter home from the hospital I was so paranoid about germs and allergens that I reduced our house cat to the laundry room, far from the baby’s nursery. It turns out that having pets regularly exposed to children can be beneficial in thwarting off allergies and asthma.

When Sanitization is Necessary

There are times when you should take necessary measures to keep your child from developing illnesses. Naturally, you should still practice good hygiene by washing your hands after changing a diaper, using the restroom, and before preparing food. You may be surprised to learn that the kitchen is one of the dirtiest rooms in the house for harboring harmful bacteria. Areas where you prepare raw food could potentially lead to the spread of E. Coli and Salmonella causing digestive problems such as diarrhea. Always properly sanitize countertops, cutting boards, faucets, and floors where you frequently handle raw food. Avoid using sponges and change out your dishcloths frequently. In some cases, allergies can be inherited through genetics, causing your child to become ill from exposure. Likewise, certain disorders could become aggravated from exposure to known irritants. If your child has a known ailment that could become worsened by exposure to certain germs, use common practices where necessary. If you have any concerns you should always consult with your pediatrician regarding when exposure to germs increase immunity for your baby.

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