Summer is the time for children to play in the backyard with their shovels, sandpit and garden toys, enjoying the time off now that school holidays are here.
Any parent will know when children walk in from playing outside, muddy footprints are left on the floor and dirty finger marks are on the walls.
Parents may think they are giving their children extra protection from nasty germs by using antibacterial products around the house. What they don’t know is that children with little exposure to bacteria in mud and dirt are robbed of important health benefits that will support them into their adult life. Dr Ryan Harvey from House Call Doctor says parents need to understand that vaccinated children can receive many health benefits from playing in the dirt.
“Without exposure to everyday germs, which can be found in mud, children miss out on building a stronger, more robust immunity to sickness,” says Dr Harvey.
“In saying that, parents should make sure children wash their hands with soap and water after playing outside every time.”
“Children must also be kept up to date with their vaccinations. This gives children immunity from the real outdoor bacteria that risks a child’s health, such as tetanus.”
“Always check with your regular GP to see what vaccinations your child requires,” says Dr Harvey.
Whilst parents might feel they are protecting their children’s health, research shows excessive use of antibacterial products can over-sterilise a child’s environment. America’s FDA (Food & Drug Administration) banned antibacterial soaps from the US Market last year, as there was no scientific evidence that antibacterial soaps were more effective than normal soap and warm water.
Here are the 5 health benefits your child receives from playing in mud:
1. Immune System Boost. Children raised in over hygienic conditions will not be exposed to organisms (in dirt) that help strengthen their immune system against tougher infections. This is based around the concept of ‘Hygiene Hypothesis’
2. Help Relieve Stress. Research shows exposure to soil bacteria can improve the mood by boosting the immune system.
3. Vitamin D. Spending time in the sunlight (with the right sun protection) can help your children grow healthy and strong. Vitamin D forms in the skin when it is exposed to UV from sunlight. It gives children healthy bones and teeth, a stronger immune system, and enhanced cardiovascular health.
4. Stay Active. Playing in dirt doesn’t mean just sitting. Children love to run, jump, crawl and even cartwheel. This type of exercise teaches children it’s fun to stay active.
5. Important Stimulation From Nature. Playing in the outdoors teaches a child to use all senses (sight, sound, smell, touch and taste), which helps children advance in their mental and physical development.
Let your child experience the world and embrace the mud!
About The Expert
Dr Ryan Harvey is the Deputy Clinical Director at House Call Doctor. Dr Harvey is highly experienced in paediatrics, and has administered medical care to children living in remote overseas communities. He now works with many families, administering acute care when unexpected medical situations arise overnight.