As Seen in OC Family Quotes as a Pediatric Expert

Germ Warfare

A little bad can be good for baby.

BY LARRY URISH

Is your baby too clean? Has she actually been harmed by your loving vigilance? How, you ask, can a baby be too hygienic? After all, as responsible parents, we go to great lengths to create a safe environment for our families. At or near the top of the list: making our homes as spotless and germ-free as possible. However, by doing this, we may be harming our little bundles of joy. How can sanitizing your home be bad for your baby? Doesn’t complete germ eradication help her? In a word, no.
Strange as it may sound, a number of germs are good for your baby. Every day from birth, her body naturally defends itself against thousands of germs, which can be found in food, liquids, air and water, as well as on objects. The presence of these germs allows your baby’s immune system to properly develop and become strong, so future exposure to germs will keep her from developing colds and flu, as well as other health problems.

“Children who have been exposed to germs or live on farms and near animals have fewer incidents of allergies and asthma,” says Dr. Zacharia Reda, CEO and managing director of the Newport Children’s Medical Group, and a specialist in pediatrics, pulmonary diseases and pediatric critical care. Dr. Reda – who was voted by his peers in the Orange County Medical Association as one of the top doctors in pediatric critical care from 2005 through 2008 – cautions parents about going overboard with germ exposure. “Of course, I don’t recommend intentionally exposing children to germs, but if you try to isolate them from germs, it may help in the short term, but it will not help in the long term.”

When a harmful virus or bacterium that can make your baby sick enters her body, her immune system’s job is to fight off these germs. Antibodies, formed when she is exposed to germs from day one, are released to kill the invaders before they do any harm.
Playing on the fear factor, more product manufacturers are geared toward making your home germ-free. According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 700 new antibacterial products have hit the U.S. market in recent years. This is not necessarily a step in the right direction. “I don’t recommend antibacterial gels if children are able to wash their hands,” says Dr. Reda. “Gels are OK if you don’t have access to soap and water, but washing hands is always preferred.”
So be kind to your rug rats. Sure, maintain a clean, safe home for your baby (and, of course, your entire brood) is great. But back off on the compulsive use of anti-bacterial products, and please remember that you needn’t keep your curious crawler in an antiseptic bubble. It’ll pay dividends down the road.