As many of you know, my favorite thing to talk about as I travel across the country speaking to parents, educators and camp professionals is resilience. Getting the message out on how to build strong kids is a passion of mine and any opportunity I can get to share some tips on how to do that, I gladly take it.
So I’m asking: Are you making your kids resilient to germs?
As parents, we want to keep our kids safe and healthy. Sometimes that can become an obsession and that obsession can be fueled by… hand sanitizer. Bu hand sanitizer can cause more problems than it solves, and germs are safe and useful for most kids.
Often parents hear their kid sniffle, they immediately want to run their kids to the nearest urgent care or doctor’s office. As a family physician, I see a lot of kids (and adults) with minor colds looking for a solution. The misconception is that you need antibiotics to get rid of illnesses. The vast majority of upper respiratory infections are caused by viruses, and that means antibiotics won’t work! Those antibiotics will just cause other infections and side effects. Our bodies have lots of ways of healing, when we let them.
You may cringe every time your child has a minor fever or stuffy nose. A lot of parents do.
The truth is…. It’s OK for your kids to get sick and here’s why:
Exposure to germs at an early age can help to build a strong and adaptive immune system. Many researchers have studied the relationship between the decreasing number of infectious diseases in the developed world and the increase in allergies and autoimmune disorders. Have you ever heard of a theory called the hygiene hypothesis? This theory evolved from a study of British children with hay fever and autoimmune disorders and found an inverse relationship between the two.
Antibiotics Are OK, In the Right Circumstances and In Moderation
Remember, you can suffer from “Antibiotic Overkill”. Have you ever used antibiotics to fight and infection and then battled diarrhea for a few days? Antibiotics don’t just kill the bad bacteria in your system, it also kills the good, too. There are many bacterias in our gut that are beneficial to us and when we kill them, we can also make ourselves sick, in a different way.
Many good bacteria are vanishing and being replaced by more resistant and bad bacteria is becoming more resistant to the antibiotics we have in our arsenal. We’re simultaneously weakening our own army while creating super germs that could pose a very serious health risk if we don’t curtail the use of antibiotics. Luckily the FDA stepped in recently to update warning labels to limit use.
The moral of this story, it’s OK for your kids to get sick! For minor illnesses, you may not need to intervene….and give the hand sanitizer a break! Remember what it says on the container… kills 99% of bacteria? That is good and bad bacteria, by the way. There are over 100 trillion helpful critters living on and in us. Some are just along for the ride and some are actually helping to keep our kids healthy.
There is more to building resilient kids to letting them make mistakes or rise from tough situations, you can help them build resilient bodies as well by letting them be exposed to these germs naturally and letting them get dirty!
Thanks to Sydney Ziverts, the Health and Safety Investigator for ConsumerSafety.org for sharing this information!