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    • The New York Times just published an excerpt from this upcoming book, which I'm very much looking forward to reading, called An Elegant Defense: The Extraordinary New Science of the Immune System.

      In the book, the author posits a compelling question:

      Should your children pick their noses?
      Should your children eat dirt? Maybe: Your body needs to know what
      immune challenges lurk in the immediate environment.

      Picking up your food from the floor, aka the 5 second rule? He quotes a Dr Meg Lemon who says yes to that- and more. Get rid of antibacterial soap, hand sanitizers, and encourage your kids to eat dirt...and boogers.

      Interestingly, the research is brought back to 19th century London, where Hay Fever was thought of as an "Aristocratic disease."

      The paper hypothesized that “allergic diseases were prevented by infection in early childhood, transmitted by unhygienic contact with older siblings, or acquired prenatally from a mother infected by contact with her older children.

      “Over the past century declining family size, improvements in household amenities, and higher standards of personal cleanliness have reduced the opportunity for cross infection in young families,” the paper continued. “This may have resulted in more widespread clinical expression of atopic disease, emerging in wealthier people, as seems to have occurred for hay fever.”

      As a result, the immune system that evolved to match the levels of threat found in the environment has now found itself at a loss, leading to the astronomic rise in allergies we see today:

      The percentage of children in the United States with a food allergy rose 50 percent between 1997–1999 and 2009–2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The jump
      in skin allergies was 69 percent during that period, leaving 12.5 percent of American children with eczema and other irritations... There are related trends in inflammatory bowel disease, lupus, rheumaticconditions and, in particular, celiac disease. The last results from the immune’s system overreacting to gluten, a protein in wheat, rye and barley. This attack, in turn, damages the walls of the small intestine.

      How did we get to this point where our bodies are so deprived of the stimuli they need that they start to attack themselves? Well, advertising played a role:

      We’re fed a steady diet of a hygiene-related marketing that began in the late 1800s, according to a novel study published in 2001 by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and
      Epidemiology. Scientists at Columbia University who did the research were trying to understand how we became so enamored of soap products.

      What do you think of the hygiene hypothesis? Will you be reading Matt Richtel's book as well?

    • As a parent of many pickers, I’m grateful you posted this. We just had the “not in public and never eat it” conversation again recently. 😆

      That was an interesting article, but I’m left feeling decidedly unconvinced.

      Minor note: I felt the doctor they quoted lost some credibility with me when she said, “I immunized the living hell out of my children.” I don’t even know what that means? There aren’t a ton of optional vaccines out there. It just seems unnecessarily inflammatory and sort of misleading.

      I’ve always felt that dirt doesn’t hurt. Unless you’re immunocompromised, the worst you’re going to get from food on the floor or a grocery store shopping cart is a cold for the latter case, and a hair in your mouth for the former. Meh. Of course I’m raising five kids so we are all dirty anyway according to the article. (They’re right, of course! Big families definitely share germs.)

      However I didn’t find the connection here that compelling. The “hygiene hypothesis” is at best an association rather than attempt at establishing causation. I didn’t even see data that pointed to association since they mentioned a huge increase in allergies but not much data on hygiene during the same time period except for some fuzzy comments on public sentiment. Statements along the lines of “genetics certainly play a role” seem to undermine the premise that this has changed over the course of a generation or two. In that case, genetics should not be playing a role, right?

      And one final note: even for someone who isn’t bothered by dirt, that photo is gross. I vote yes always on covering coughs. 🤢

    • I work as a preschool teacher. I'm not sure there is a way to get children not to pick there nose or eat food from the floor... Or lick their toes after have just walked through the bathroom to wash their hands..... Ohh man the list of gross thing I see every day is soooo long.

    • Speaking of boogers, there's actually valuable information in children's noses (!):

      Examining the bacterial makeup of a child’s nose could help doctors improve the diagnosis and treatment of serious lung infections, scientists say. Researchers from the University of Edinburgh found that bacteria and viruses at the back of the nose and throat of children with respiratory infections is different to that of healthy youngsters. These differences indicate the severity of the condition and could help doctors predict how long the affected child needs to spend in hospital.