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Exercise that Immune System

April 5, 2006

God has created the most amazing system for dealing with the germs that surround us. It is called the “Immune System” and it functions autonomically….that is, it goes on without our having to decide to employ it. At least, that is how it is supposed to function. The brigade of leucocytes, T-cells and white blood cells all wait their opportunity to attack and fight off the bacteria, viruses and anything else that wants to share our bodies with us. They aren’t afraid of these things: they literally live to take care of these problems.

So what have we done? We have developed so many ways to avoid germs that our immune systems get weak from underuse. Or so says this article on CNN’s website. The article talks about the advantages of allowing little children to “get down and messy” on the floors and regular walkways of life, not always sanitizing everything to keep them healthy. Here is a snippet:

Now some immunology experts are beginning to agree that germs that many parents bleach and disinfect out of existence might help children.

“Hygiene hypothesis” holds that when babies are exposed to germs, it helps them fight allergies and asthma later.

The prevalence of allergies has increased substantially in the past 15 years, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and some experts believe that too much cleanliness might be a contributing factor.

Dr. Dennis Ownby, chief of allergy and immunology at the Medical College of Georgia, found in a study that babies in households with multiple pets have fewer allergies at age 6 or 7 not just to animals, but also to ragweed, grass and dust mites.

I can concur with these theories. The people I know who are most paranoid about their children being around germs have the sickest kids of anyone I know. And the pattern is completely consistent. Paranoid moms and dads = sick kids…almost always. Let the immune system do what it is designed to do, especially at a young age. We exercise our muscles and make them work so that when we need them, they will be there. The same is true of every part of our bodies…our minds, our heart, our lungs, our kidneys…the less you use each one, the less it will be able to perform when needed.

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6 comments

  1. Paranoid moms and dads = sick kids…almost always.

    And sadly, many of those parents then see their kids’ illnesses as validation that they need to protect them even more.

    I tend to be one of the least germophobe people I know…and you know what? My kid’s been pretty darned healthy. Of course, I also have the requisite dogs in the house. 🙂


  2. I always start cold and flu season with a “don’t over proctect and let their immune system build” philosophy however there is only so much I can take! I take my kids to church, bible study, the mall, and play group. Generally, April through September we’re fine but then “cold and flu season” starts. I still take them and the first cold hits. We wait it out and then go back, get another cold and have to wait again. November through March my kids were sick nearly every other week. One would get it then the other. Most of my household cleaners are all-natural, not antibacterial, I don’t sanitize my children, though I am now considering carrying Purell, I have always been a firm believer in letting their immune systems develop but I am sick of having sick kids. I’m starting to get pretty cranky with the parents of not-so-sick kids who bring their kids to events with a clear runny nose and assume they are not contagious. Bodily fluids carry germs no matter the color. Our last family cold was 2 weeks ago. I hope and pray that it was the last for awhile. We all need a break.


  3. I think the article says that taking this approach will see a lot of illnesses before school age, but after that, they hardly ever get sick. That was what Kathy and I found as we raised the kids


  4. I completely agree with this concept. I didn’t grow up in a dirty house, but I did have my share of childhood diseases. After I was 5 years old, I rarely got sick except for one serious bout with the Hong Kong flu when I was 22. Unfortunately, the immune system doesn’t work nearly as well against cancers. I’m probably one of the healthiest cancer survivors (so far) around. I am blessed with a very good immune system.

    The other thing that overuse of anti-bacterial sprays, soaps, and wipes does is to give bacteria the impetus to mutate into strains that are resistant to the antibiotics that have saved so many lives in the past. The same holds true for viruses that change into forms that are more deadly than our immune systems can handle. Our society seems to have become so obsessed with protecting ourselves and our families from germs that we are becoming more vulnerable instead of less.


  5. Paranoid moms and dads = sick kids… does not always apply.

    Some children are born with allergies, through no fault of their own or their parents. I had two children born healthy, one born with allergies. One was hardly ever sick all the time growing up; another was sick for the first two years, but always, all the kid’s life, was allergic to things: animal dander, pollens, milk, etc. The third was healthy until school age, then as time went on, this one developed IBS and lactose intolerance. Now, as an adult, the healty one is still healthy, the allergic one is still allergic to multiple things, and the third one is developing more allergies (now is allergic to peanuts–of is more cognizant of other allergies that weren’t as strong growing up).

    Some things just don’t follow patterns…



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