We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded with information, adverts and new ideas on what is best for our families. The problem is that the nagging need to protect our children may actually be causing them to become ill. From the moment our children are born, they are constantly sticking their hands in their mouth. Then they begin to crawl and well there is not a thing in their reach that they don’t try and eat. It does not bother them if it is the dogs bone that it was eating or a toilet brush that they decided to play with. They are constantly into everything. Then they go to Crèche or Day-Care and well the fact that the dummy on the floor is not theirs, does not stop them putting it in their mouth.
So in response we pull out the hand sanitiser, dummy sterilisers and look for cleaning products that will kill any germ it comes in contact with. Our kitchens and bathrooms are so shiny and clean that we can almost see our reflection. We live in an age of cleanliness. Our soaps are antibacterial. Our household cleaners promise to kill 99.9% of germs. Yet our children are still getting sick. Could it be because we are being too clean? Evidence shows that a little dirt and germs can actually protect us against disease and that our super clean lifestyles can be bad for our health. By becoming supper clean and avoiding young children playing with animals and getting muddy and dirty, we are fulling their lightly hood of suffering from asthma, eczema, and hay fever. This theory is called the Hygiene Hypothesis. It is said that if we do not have exposure to dirt and germs early in life, our immune systems will not mature and learn how to control their reaction to the items that we come in contact with every day like dust and pollen. Now I am not by any means saying that we should relax on our personal hygiene, as this could definitely lead to illness and disease.
Good hygiene is critical in stopping the spread of germs and diseases such as colds, flu and tummy bugs. Those with immune systems that have not fully developed or people with a weakened immune system need to be protected against bad germs. What we are suggesting is that children who have been exposed to germs, whether it was through a sibling or having pets or just playing outside are far less lightly to have allergies. Exposure to good and bad germs and bacteria will help strengthen the immune system which is the bodies army that is used to keep us healthy. If we deny our children exposure to a certain amount of germs at an early age, develop antibodies against that germ. When the immune system comes in contact with germs and bacteria, the army has to know how to respond, and be able to tell the difference between harmful and harmless germs and bacteria. An allergy is in fact our immune system going haywire. If we deny our children exposure to germs early in life, their immune systems won’t learn how to control its reaction to everyday elements such as dust and pollen. Great ways to increase the immune system is to eat healthy, avoid unnecessary antibiotics. Breast feed your babies. Introduce an immune system booster, zinc, vitamin A and probiotics. Always remember that Parents are four times more likely to catch a cold than an adult without children. Viruses picked up in the playground pass through families with young children, making parents more susceptible to the common cold and flu. A poll among 5 000 Brits found that a third of parents took more time off sick now than they did before they had children.
A strong and healthy immune system is essential in helping your body fight off colds and flu. Use an immune-boosting supplement which contains Vitamin C and zinc, which used in combination, are excellent cold and flu fighters. Try Efferflu C Immune Booster by Pharma Dynamics with vitamin C, Echinacea and zinc (available at all major pharmacies countrywide).
We all know that when we take an antibiotic, we need to take a pro-biotic to rebuild the good bacteria in the gut that the bacteria has already killed off. In the same way, by being supper hygienic, we are also killing off the useful bacteria that is needed to build a healthy immune system. What this does is it causes our bodies to overreact to beneficial germs because our bodies have forgotten to live with them. Beneficial bacteria help to make vitamins in our gut, they coat our skin to protect us and help food digest.
Just as we need to stimulate our babies in order for their brains to develop, too much stimulation is also not good for them. This is the same for our immune systems. The key is balance, by finding the perfect balance between exposure to a few germs and building your immune system whilst remaining healthy. You don’t have to wash and sanitize everything, but you do need to install healthy hygiene into your children. Constantly remind them that washing their hands once they have been to the toilet, this is just as important as flushing the chain. That they must always wash their hands before they eat and if they have been touching an item that is touched by many people they must not put their hands anywhere near their mouths, and wash them as soon as they get a chance. When they are washing their hands, they must wash your hands by rubbing the soap all over them, this will help detach the germs from your skin, and then when you run them under water it will rinse them away.
If a baby’s dummy drops on the floor, it is better for the mother to suck it clean rather than sterilise it. This will accelerate the development of the baby’s immune system and reduce allergies. You can look at it like a sort of exposure therapy. If you give birth naturally, your baby will have a much lower rate of allergies than a baby born via caesarean, this is due to the early exposure to the mother’s normal vaginal flora. Items in the house that are major bad germ carriers are chopping boards, damp wet cloths, bedlinen and towels and most importantly dish washing towels. Always ensure that these items are cleaned regularly with germ killing agents as they are the ones that are most lightly to put us at risk. Another one to remember is that you should always close the toilet lid when flushing. The open lid is a gateway for all the bacteria inside to spread and multiply.
Last of all, every time you get a little sick, you are strengthening your immune system. So if it is manageable, try not reach for the first quick fix that you can get over the counter. If your child is ill, please do not send them to school as this will create a crèche syndrome. A cycle where the kids just pass the germs from one to another, therefor depleting their immune system and it is very hard and expensive to get out of this cycle.
LET YOUR CHILDREN GET A LITTLE DIRTY TO BUILD A STRONGER IMMUNITY.