A little dirt won’t hurt: Dr. Rachel talks immune systems

NEW ORLEANS -- Newborns may be smarter than we are.

You know how they are always touching things in their environment, and then putting their hands in their mouth?  This is actually helping them to develop a strong immune system.

Dr. Rachel Reitan, our teaching doctor, says kids who are exposed to certain bacteria, dander, and other allergens before their first birthday have lower rates of allergies and strong immune systems, which protect them from certain illnesses and disease.

Just like a newborn's brain needs stimulation to develop normally, a newborn's immune system needs to be exposed to everyday germs to strengthen their immunity.

Most germs in our environment and on our bodies are harmless.

And the germs found in dirt and dirty things play an important role in developing a child's immune system. As we become obsessed with sterilizing our environment or overusing hand sanitizers, we may do more harm than good by killing off the good bacteria and depriving our kids' bodies the opportunity to build a strong immune system.

Not only does getting dirty help, it also means kids are getting outside being active instead of in front of the TV, computer, or video games.

When it comes to a healthy immune system, a little dirt won't hurt.

If you have any medical questions, email drrachel@wgno.com.