Play in the dirt!

Photo courtesy of jinglejammer

Are you serious about getting healthy? You better ditch that hand sanitizer.

New research suggests that germophobia is bad for the heart. A study by scientists from Northwestern University shows that infants who were exposed to more dirt, germs, and even animal feces grew up to have healthier hearts than those raised in more sterile environments. The study, which took place in the Philippines over the past two decades, tracked the health of 1700 Filipinos from birth to 21 years of age. In particular, the study focused on the C-reactive protein (CRP), which is a sign of heart inflammation and disease.

These findings contradict government advice and common sense. Just last spring, the Centers for Disease Control was strongly urging Americans to wash and sanitize their hands to protect against the H1N1 flu virus. Ever since scientists first developed the germ theory of disease in the 19th Century, people saw dirty hands as hazardous to good health. Now, with asthma and allergies more common than the plague and polio, it seems like it’s time for us to shift our focus to helping children develop healthy immune systems by letting them play in the sandbox every once in a while.