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Cut Your Hands? Don't Wash Them

dirty handsToday, I’m feeling better than ever about letting my kids eat off the floor. That’s because the BBC just informed me that dirt can help kids’ skin heal.

Being too clean can actually make it harder for kids to heal up minor scrapes and cuts, the study found.

The research, done at the School of Medicine in San Diego California, found that normal bacteria typically found on the skin can dampen overactive immune responses and prevent unnecessary swelling. This study is a big step forward for the “hygiene hypothesis”. A growing number of scientists believe that too little exposure to bacteria and other microorganisms can hinder the development of a child’s immune system. They’re looking at our over-sanitized culture as a possible culprit in the increased incidence of allergies in today’s kids.

While this study doesn’t address the allergy issue, it does offer some concrete evidence of bacteria helping rather than hindering the body.

In this instance, researchers found that a harmless bacteria known as Staphylococci prevented inflammation. The bacteria create a chemical called lipoteichoic acid, or LTA. This chemical keeps the surface layer of skin cells in check. That prevents them from mounting a needlessly aggressive inflammatory response when abraded.

Bottom line: think twice before grabbing the antibacterial soap next time your toddler skins her knee. There might be some healing mojo hiding in that dirt.

Photo: CJ Sorg

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