We've never been big fans of hand sanitizers, especially those where triclosan is the main ingredient. Triclosan is an antibacterial agent that is added to many products ranging from soaps, gels, and wipes to kitchen utensils and toys. There are several things we don't like about triclosan extending from it being a potential hormone disruptor to increasing antibacterial resistance, but that isn't what we want to talk about; quite the opposite actually. What we are talking about here is why you may want to ditch the hand sanitizer all together, embrace a little dirt and yes, bacteria.
Before we get into it, let's be clear. We aren't going to suggest that you start bathing in pond scum or licking bus benches. But we are suggesting that you let kids be kids and that generally includes getting dirty and being exposed to germs. The research that we are presenting here covers mostly infants and exposure to microbes in the first year of life.
Studies are showing that early life exposure to germs may actually be good for us. More specifically, when you are exposed at an early age, you may lower your risk for allergies, hay fever, asthma and inflammatory bowel disease. In a recent animal study, animals that were living in a germ-free environment were compared to others living in a normal environment with "normal" germs. The germ-free animals had elevated lung and intestinal inflammation (resembling asthma and colitis). Protection provided by exposing the animals to a normal environment led to a more long lasting, healthy (and normal) immune system.
A more recent study out of Johns Hopkins University found that infants under one year old that were exposed to allergens and household bacteria
appear less likely to suffer from allergies, wheezing and asthma. So much for making sure the cats and dogs stay away from the babies!
The take home here is not to over-sanitize the heck out of the nursery during your babies first year. Wash your hands often, with soap (that doesn't contain triclosan). Wash your produce, beware of unfamiliar swim holes (could be contaminated with giardia or E.coli), and think twice before sharing straws with someone who has an active illness. Just remember, a little dirt probably won't hurt, in fact, it just may make us healthier.