There are two things I want to address in this post:
1. Why antibacterial soaps are BAD
2. Why dirt is good
As a mom, I understand the desire to keep your child healthy. Unfortunately, the use of antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers might be having the opposite effect long term.
The science major in me has to point this out!
This generation is growing up staying indoors, rarely playing outside (the average child spends only 10.7 hours outside each week, but spends 18.6 hours on screens), and they are getting smothered with antibacterials. We need to change this culture shift, and fast!
Antibacterial Soaps and Hand Sanitizers
1. Resistant bacteria is dangerous
These products contain a chemical called triclosan.
I’ll keep this basic, but triclosan, like antibiotics, is used to kill bacteria. These chemicals kill most bacteria, but not all.
A small subset of bacteria survive the exposure and start to develop a resistance. Over time, these bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics making them very difficult to treat and fight off.
If this happens on a large enough scale our society could create bacteria strains that are resistant to ALL chemical treatment. That’s bad news for us.
There are also many studies being conducted on overuse of triclosan and that it may be causng issues such as infertility, thyroid regulation problems and more.
2. We need good bacteria
These products also kill good bacteria. Good bacteria is actually useful in helping to fight off bad bacteria and in keeping us healthy.
Similar to how the bacteria can develop resistance to chemicals we expose them to, we can develop a resistance to bacteria (when exposed to them).
That is a good thing! We can build up our immunity if we allow ourselves to be exposed.
Our digestive health depends highly on good bacteria (probiotics). This is why yogurt is so helpful for digestive issues.
Let your baby/toddler/child get dirty
So, we’ve discussed why antibacterial products are not great for us. Let’s talk about dirt and why it is so good for us!
Now, just to be clear, I am fully aware of the fact that our society has come a long way in cleaning up public health issues such as contaminated water, etc.
I am not in any way saying that those efforts were bad- we couldn’t sustain disease free as a population without those measures.
I am simply saying to go outside and let your children play in the dirt- in fact you should too! It’s ok. And don’t shower them in antibacterial soap afterwards!
Dirt actually contains healthy bacteria
It is good to get exposed to that healthy bacteria, and our children’s bodies need practice dealing with, and being exposed to bacteria.
Their bodies actually practice its immune response.
Being exposed to bacteria can build your immune response, reduce allergies, and improve digestive health. All really good things!
Foods that contain probiotics (such as yogurt) are great to feed to your children. That only goes so far, however.
There are actually soil based microorganisms that contain stronger strains of beneficial bacteria, that actually survive in our digestive system and provide the most benefit.
Kids have a natural desire to explore
Even a baby that’s only at the crawling stage, will go off into the dirt if you let them. This is such a great natural desire that we should not hinder.
Babies and children are learning about their environment and satisfying their natural curiosity. Their bodies are absorbing good things such as iron and soil based microorganisms that keep them healthy!
So, let them play. Let them go outside without shoes if they want to.
I’ve never seen my daughter more engaged than when she’s outside playing! This has been true for her baby stage and toddlerhood so far.
And it’s not even the end of the world if they put some dirt in their mouth- which they will do! Let them splash in mud puddles, and help in the garden.
Let them eat a meal without washing their hands before they do. These are all steps to keeping your child healthy long term.
Other Posts of Interest:
My Little Outdoor Helper- 2 Years Old and Helping With Family Responsibilities
Play Categories to Include for Every Toddler/Child
7 Ways to Encourage Toddlers to Embrace their Natural Scientific Tendencies
Inexpensive Summer Toys That Will Keep Your Toddler Busy