Is our obsession with cleanliness and ‘powerful new germ-killing products’ actually bad for us?
Every kid knows the sheer pleasure of getting dirty: splashing through muddy puddles, skidding through gravel, digging holes, making mud pies, building sand castles and smashing them down.
There’s a visceral pleasure in dirt play that feels so natural it might even be built into our DNA. But beyond the simple joy of getting dirty, there is now overwhelming evidence that it’s actually good for children. The science community is finding more and more evidence that rapidly increasing rates of allergies in developed countries are a result of our obsession with cleanliness. Thirty years ago, ten per cent of the population reported some form of allergy, whereas today that number has risen to 30 per cent, with one in ten children suffering from asthma.
Scientists hypothesise that our excessive cleanliness means that while we destroy harmful bacteria, we also destroy beneficial microbacteria and interrupt the normal development of children’s immune systems, thus making them more susceptible to allergies and autoimmune diseases.
So if you love to see your kid smashing around in the mud, you can feel good for more than just the fact they are having a good time – they are also building their immune system for a strong and healthy future!