Life Parenting
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Our collective knowledge about germs and their effect on our lives is murky at best. We tend to think of all germs as bad, when, in fact, our bodies are ripe with millions of helpful and healthful types of microbes.

In recent years, however, the hygiene hypotheses, which predicts that the rise in allergies is the outcome of our germaphobic tendencies, has gained some momentum. It states, basically, that a part of the reason certain allergies are on the rise is because children are not being subjected to the germs in the natural world early on in life.

“All sterile play and no dirty play makes Timmy a highly allergenic boy,” type thing.

Well, some new research published in the journal of Pediatrics is adding some validation to this hypothesis. The study’s findings suggest that children who suck their thumbs and bite their nails are less likely to develop some allergies.

Researchers found that 45 per cent of 13-year-old children had mild or worse reactions to common allergens like cats, dogs, grass, airborne fungi and dust mites. BUT (and here’s the interesting part) that number dropped to 31 per cent when they surveyed children who had sucked their thumbs and bitten their nails (40 per cent if the children had one of the habits).

“Our findings are consistent with the hygiene theory that early exposure to dirt or germs reduces the risk of developing allergies,” said one of the researchers, McMaster University’s Malcolm Sears.

To be perfectly clear, we are not encouraging thumb sucking—there’s no denying that it can cause orthodontic issues, and we know braces aren’t cheap. But it is worth pointing out that part of the reason we thought it was a bad habit, may have been misinformed. So, if your kids have these hand-to-mouth habits, there may be a silver lining.

But surely there’s a better way for them to microdose these healthy microbes.

“Maybe you can just lick your thumb instead, Timmy.”