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Eeew! Germs!

I’ve been a fan of dirt for as long as I can remember. I would splash around in Rock Creek in suburban Washington, D.C. catching tadpoles (eeew!) I ran around barefoot stepping in God knows what, and paid for it once with a rusty nail (eeew!) and a tetanus shot. One of my most vivid memories is of a little girl my age biting a (eeew!) caterpillar in half.

What got me thinking about this was a study from Sweden that indicates parents who lick their baby’s pacifier clean when it lands on the floor (eeew!) are doing the kid a favor. It seems mom or dad’s spit helps baby’s immune system develop.

I remember a Swiss study years ago that indicated children raised on farms (eeew!) were less likely to develop asthma. That’s been confirmed a number of times, most recently by a study of Amish children in northern Indiana.

Too many of our kids are not healthy. The Centers for Disease Control reports the number of kids with asthma continues to grow. The CDC also said the number of kids with food allergies is rising quickly.

But even more significant, a 2009 study from Northwestern University shows getting dirty (eeew!) as a child may protect you from heart disease as an adult.

I think it all ties together, and we’re getting sick because we’re too freaked out about germs. Get rid of the hand sanitizer, and the anti-microbial soap and the anti-bacterial wipes.

We didn’t have that stuff when I was a kid, and I’ve never used any as an adult. It doesn’t prove anything, but my last sick day was on Nov. 26, 2010 (I asked Human Resources to check).

But it sure looks like the science says, “Don’t be afraid to let the kids get dirty! Lick that binky clean when it falls on the floor! Get a dog and save some paper towels! Let it clean the kid’s face!”

If you’re a germaphobe and this is all too much for you, stop reading now.

Still reading? OK.

Here’s the thing about “germs.” We are mostly microbes. The human body contains about 110 trillion cells and 100 trillion of those aren’t human.
Take a deep breath, wash your hands, and read this fascinating article from Smithsonian Magazine.