I am a parent.
I get hysterical with dirt and dust around my kid.
I live in a home that is hyper clean– with disinfectants of various sorts.
I doze my young one with sanitizer often, especially when outside.
I have a list of food that has been ticked off owing to their potential threats.
Well that is what it would to most of us! No contact with germ laden stuffs means no potential illness. Hyper clean homes and bodies mean no antibiotic invasion. No threatening food means none falling ill.
Is that really so?
Is my fear rational?
Is it actually required to follow such a norm– a norm which probably never existed before?
How could our parents produce stronger generation of kids without being so phobic to germs?
In fact, they had a generation which was less prone to germ causing diseases and allergies– even though their houses never smelled of disinfectants and sanitizers and soaps– even though they were not plagued with the thought of their children getting dirty in mud and soil.
The reason might be simple.
Somewhere while maintaining cleanliness, we fail to strike a balance with the right kind of germ exposure. There is a whopping trillions of bacteria in human body which control the immune system. This system needs to be nurtured through the right kind of exposure to germs and bacteria, especially during the very young age.
Of course, we can’t promote exposing kids to virus and bacteria. Infact, basic sanitary practices are the main cause that have helped survived various infectious diseases and make health advancements. Washing hands before meals and touching something gross, basic rituals of brushing teeth; day and night, having shoes out before entering home, showering, and laundry can never be underestimated.
However, our immune system needs to be challenged to be fit. If we create an environment so antiseptic, then we are probably making our immune system too lazy to take that challenge. So if ever such hyper-sensitized immune system comes across something that’s foreign then they become inflammatory triggering allergies.
Therefore, let’s expose our children to germs, the right kind of exposure indeed!
Let’s allow our children to play with mud. I believe mud is just not just a gooey, sticky substance, it has some magical powers. It is the most natural form of play and creates some fondest of the memories. There is no permission better than the permission to get dirty. Other than the fun element and the sensory appeal it has, it does a lot in building immunity. Exposing kids to germs at early age reduces chances of contracting allergies later in lives. Let’s try to control the parent in us against dirt, mud, soil and let kids be kids.
Let’s not sterilize our home too often. I get fascinated by the houses that are clean. However, sterilizing everything our kids touch will reduce their contact with the good bacteria as well needed in their gut. Let’s live in an environment which is home like and not hospital like.
Let’s not to go insane if our child picks from the floor and eat. I don’t say that I would promote eating food dropped on the floor. Of course eating food from the floor is not absolutely risk free. But if it is normal household floor and a child has picked up then let’s not panic like a germophobe. At least not be the one tutoring of how dangerous such an act could be!
Let’s not lather our children with hand sanitizer. I have layman knowledge of the chemicals these otherwise cleansing agent could be made of. They could be harmful, more than what touching or playing can cause. Let’s eradicate this as much from life as possible.
Let’s give our children fermented food. A lot of buzz that has been around fermented food and that it is meant for adults. Fermented foods are high in antioxidants and probiotics which is really good for our gut. Introducing the good bacteria at an early age is always a good idea. It’s not only good for our existing health but it also prevents us from falling ill. So time to include fermented dairy drink kefir or the yogurts of variety!
Let’s not freak out when our child goes barefoot. Most kids are conditioned to too much of an indoor environment these days. But ever if they wish to go barefoot on the grass, on the mulch or the fields, just let them be; not trying to anticipate who might have spitted, pooped or trashed the place. I believe this practice of grounding or earthing shall be doing good indeed; as the Earth carries a lot of negative charge. This charge is a good supply of antioxidants and free radical destroying electrons.
Let’s not use antibacterial soaps. Antibacterial soaps have been the latest thing to advanced cleanliness and providing protection as compared to the regular soaps. However, these soaps have lately been under the scanner for the harsh chemicals they have. These soaps deplete the good bacteria found naturally in the skin. And if the good bacteria are killed, then chances are that the bad bacteria will overpopulate.
Let’s come out of that overtly cautious era of humans that we have created. Humans who give way to their irrational fear of contracting disease and create limitless boundaries for their kids. Humans who are unaware of the dangers of not exposing kids to dirt and soil and germs and pathogens. Humans who introduce allergies before introducing food to their kids.
Of course it will take time. It will take time to allow kids snacking without having washed hands after gardening. It will take time to pick a pacifier and put back to a little ones mouth without washing it. It will take time to not grab our piece of disinfectant after sensing of any act that stands in our list of gross and yuck.
Just remember “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”!