Dirty Day Cares Make for Healthier Babies

Sona Charaipotra
12

Hygiene Theory
When Kavya first made her grand arrival, I was the baby nazi. I made sure everyone who got anywhere near her washed their hands (with soap!), that her clothes were always pristine, that she wasn't exposed to dirt or germs or anything else remotely sinister.

And my father mocked me. A pediatrician, he was a big believer in hygiene theory, the idea that the more kids are exposed to -- germs, dirt, the works -- the stronger their immunity will be.

Then she started day care, and I started becoming an ardent hygiene theorist myself.

Sure, the place looked clean enough. But with more than a dozen babies and toddlers crawling and climbing all over the place, there was no way they could keep it germ-free. And since Kavi started day care nearly four months ago, not a month has gone by that she hasn't been sick. (And so, we've been sick, too, since we catch whatever she brings home.)

This should be worrisome, no? But I gave up on that long ago. I figure, at least she's building up her immune system. So long live dirty, germy day care centers!

Because according to the latest study, conducted by Dr. Sylvana M. Cote, a research scientist at the University of Montreal in Quebec, and published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, kids exposed to daycare germs from age 2-and-a-half or younger are more likely to contract respiratory and/or ear infections when they're really little, but then less likely contract these illnesses from ages 5 to 8.

So essentially, a sick baby now means a healthy kid later. Yup, hygiene theory. I can't believe I'm about to write this, but my dad was right. Score one for Nanu.

Now if I could only get him to stop giving Kavi lollipops and French fries.

Do you believe in hygiene theory? Or are you a baby nazi, like the old me?


Image via Navdeep Singh Dhillon

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