Why dirt and microbes are good for your child.
With the development of antibiotics, vaccines, and sterilization techniques, the world has seen a sharp decline in the spread of infectious diseases. However, Finlay (Microbiology/Univ. of British Columbia) and Arrieta provide ample evidence showing that our world of prescription antibiotics, antibacterial soaps, and hand sanitizers—all used to combat disease and encourage hypercleanliness—are also contributing to a steady increase in “diabetes, allergies, asthma, inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD), autoimmune diseases, autism, certain types of cancer, and even obesity.” Beginning with pregnancy, the authors discuss the pros and cons of antibiotic use by mothers and how they change their microbial environment and can cause asthma, eczema, and hay fever in infants. Vaginal births deliver a multitude of beneficial microbes to the infant, and the authors suggest those who need caesarean sections consider a technique called “seeding,” wherein the mother’s vagina is swabbed to collect secretions that are wiped on the baby, the mother’s chest, and nipples. This provides the infant with important beneficial microbes necessary for development after the near-sterile environment of the womb. Breast milk comes with its own set of microbes beneficial to the infant, helping the intestines mature sufficiently to handle the next stage of development: the introduction of solid foods. The authors discuss the advantages of having pets and the need for exposure to the wild outdoors. They give special attention to the links between antibiotics and the increase in obesity, diabetes, and inflammatory bowel diseases—in children and in adults. Short do's and don’ts lists help solidify the information. Overall, claim the authors, parents must be less hypervigilant about fighting bacteria, as many types of them are actually necessary for our children to be vigorous and strong.
Solid, easily assimilated evidence showing how microbes are an integral part of a child’s healthy life.