Letting kids get dirty is actually great for their health!

Exposure to dirt and germs helps children’s immune systems. Jack Gilbert, Ph.D., a scientist who studies microbial ecosystems at the University of Chicago—and a father of two who continually faced messy situations—looked into the effects of those potential germs on little bodies for a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine.

“It turned out that most of the exposures were actually beneficial,” he told NPR’s Weekend Edition.

“So that dirty dummy that fell on the floor—if you just stick it in your mouth and lick it, and then pop it back in little Tommy’s mouth, it’s actually going to stimulate their immune system. Their immune system’s going to become stronger because of it.”

The co-author of Dirt is Good: The Advantage of Germs for Your Child’s Developing Immune System, Gilbert said his bigger concerns is with the extreme sanitisation we see today.

“It’s fine to wash their hands if there’s a cold or a flu virus around, but if they’re interacting with a dog, and the dog licks their face, that’s not a bad thing,” Gilbert said. “In fact that could be extremely beneficial for the child’s health.”

Gilbert also cited a study of more than 300,000 children, which showed children of mums in the habit of licking off dirty dummy’s actually had lower rates of asthma, allergies and eczema. As he said, “Overall, their health was stronger and more robust.”

So let the kids go crazy and have some fun getting grubby!

Share your comments below 

  • interesting study here. Times have changed.


  • go jump in puddles and throw some mud around, they have baths or showers for a reason


  • The full sanitisation thing is a recent phenomena [last 20 years] before that it was unheard of and kids used to play outside and get dirty. Haven’t you heard of the 3 minute drop? If something was on the floor for longer than that it had to be thrown in the bin. Of course no dogs were kept inside the house back then either – they were kept in kennels outside.


  • Interesting that the ‘dirtier’ kids had lower rather of asthma, allergies and eczema. Those are all conditions I thought you were born with!


  • It’s been know that kids who live on a farm are far healthier than the city kids, because they get up close to animals, dirt etc.


  • Kids do need to get outside and have a bit of harmless fun in the sand or dirt.


  • Well we’ve known this for ages! I’ve never been scared of dirt.


  • Totally agree with this! My son loves nothing more than playing in the mud and dirt and is rarely sick


  • Definitely agree with this. Of course within reason.


  • The comment about the dummy is interesting. I knew people who stuck the dummy in their mouth before giving it to the kids years ago, but when i had my kids (3 years ago) i was told definitely not to do that, and that it should be washed before giving to the kids. My youngest still has a dummy so I’ll now lick it myself! Perhaps its still best to wash if dealing with a newborn though???


  • My youngest 2 (5 and 9yrs old) certainly know how to get dirty ! My youngest eats even sand and last year she found bat poo in the garden, stuck part of it in her undies and ate the rest. Then when she had her fingers in her ears it caused a huge infection (goes well when you have grommets).


  • A commonsense approach to this is of course a given.


  • I can see how its a. Great thing


  • This brings back memories. I know 2 sisters who have 2 kids each. 3 of them have dark hair, one of them fair (the youngest is a boy). The girls decided it wasn’t right that he had fair hair and they had dark so they made really thick mud and put it all through his hair. The top of it had dried when the Mums went outside to see what the were doing.


  • I can go with this – within reason, of course!


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