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04 November 2011

Why letting children get dirty reduces the risk of them getting sick

Parents have long suspected letting their children get a bit dirty won’t do them any harm – even if the modern health and safety police say otherwise.

And according to scientists, that parental instinct was right all along.
Children who come home splattered in mud after playing are less likely to develop allergies as they get older, the researchers found.

Up to no good! Playing in the mud could boost youngsters' immune systems

Up to no good! Playing in the mud could boost youngsters' immune systems

Their developing immune systems are exposed to a greater variety of bacteria than those of their cleaner counterparts, so they can cope better when germs are encountered later in life.

One in four of us now suffers from some kind of allergy, a figure that has risen in recent decades – as parents have become more worried about hygiene.

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen studied 411 children for 12 years from birth, and identified a direct link between the number of different bacteria found in their bodies and the risk of developing allergies later in life.

Professor Hans Bisgaard, who led the study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, said: ‘What matters is to encounter a large number of different bacteria early in life when the immune system is developing and 'learning'.

‘Our new findings match the discoveries we have made in the fields of asthma and hay fever.’

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