Mom vs. Mom: Clean Freak?
Germophobes, beware! Dirt may have its share of healthful perks
As a mom, you've probably seen your child ingest just about everything: dirt, sand, small insects, and whatever else is dirty and within reach. Let’s just say that if a tot has to choose between candy or a filthy rock, he or she is likely to opt for the second. And while some moms recoil in horror, others let it happen.
There may be good reason for the latter approach. While one study (published in the U.S. more than two years ago by Kidsafe NSW’s playground newsletter) shows that bacteria found in dirt can actually increase levels of serotonin, reduce anxiety, and stimulate growth of certain neurons in the brain, another study (conducted by the University of Copenhagen) reports that microorganisms may also aid in the development of antibodies against allergies.
As for what to believe, mom to five-year-old Lara, Zeynep Lettieri, posits that it’s all relative. “If Lara’s playing in an airport, I’ll sanitize her hands every few seconds, but I’m not a clean freak. At home in Geneva, for example, when we’re gardening in our yard, I let her play freely. Same goes for our sandbox,” she says. What's more, Zeynep allows Lara to play with whatever and whomever. “When she was in pre-school, she would dance, play the piano, and do some pretty gross things. But you know what? She's just strengthening her immune system!” —Veronica Russo