July 06, 2015 22:36 UTC

learningenglish

Why Getting Dirty Can Be Healthy for Children



Download this story as a PDF

This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

A new study suggests that early exposure to germs strengthens the immune system. That means letting children get a little dirty might be good for their health later in life.

The study involved laboratory mice. It found that adult mice raised in a germ-free environment were more likely to develop allergies, asthma and other autoimmune disorders. There are more than eighty disorders where cells that normally defend the body instead attack tissues and organs.

They include rheumatoid arthritis, which attacks the joints; Crohn's disease, an inflammatory bowel condition; and juvenile diabetes. Hay fever, a common allergy, is also an autoimmune disorder.

 

Richard Blumberg is a professor at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts. He says in nineteen eighty-nine, medical researchers sought to explain these diseases with what they called the "hygiene hypothesis." They proposed that the increasing use of antibacterial soaps and other products, especially early in life, could weaken immune systems.

 

RICHARD BLUMBERG: "The hypothesis has stated or suggested that early-life exposure to microbes is a very important determinant of later life sensitivity to allergic and so-called autoimmune diseases, such as hay fever, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease and others."

Now, Dr. Blumberg and a team have what they say is the first biological evidence to link early exposure to germs to stronger adult immune systems. They say this exposure could prevent the development of some autoimmune diseases.

In the adult germ-free mice, they found that inflammation in the lungs and colon was caused by so-called killer T cells. These normally fight infection. But they became overactive and targeted healthy tissue -- an autoimmune condition seen in asthma and a disease called ulcerative colitis.

Dr. Blumberg says the mice raised in a normal environment did not have the same reaction. He says their immune systems had been "educated" by early exposure to germs.

RICHARD BLUMBERG: "What was really most remarkable to us was the fact that once the education event provided by the microbes occurred in early life, it was durable and lasted throughout the life of the animal."

Rates of autoimmune disorders are rising worldwide, but mostly in wealthier, industrialized countries.

RICHARD BLUMBERG: "I think one obvious question, for example, that’s raised by these studies is the early life use of antibiotics and whether we need to be more careful in their prescribing."

Rob Dunn is a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. He says the new study does not mean people should stop washing.

ROB DUNN: "Wash your hands, but don't do it with antimicrobial soap. Let your kids play in a reasonable amount of dirt and get outside and get exposed to a diversity of things."

The study appears in the journal Science.

And that's the VOA Special English Health Report. I'm Steve Ember.

___

Contributing: Jessica Berman

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 5
    Next 
by: Jorge Trujillo Pascuas
04/14/2012 4:12 PM
This article describes exactly what happens with careless chilcren in farmer
poor families in less develop countries; they grow up more healthy than others
whos parents have the means to care about them. Thank you VOA.


by: Mai Tran
04/13/2012 4:09 PM
i had no any health problems for long time living in pollution country, vietnam, Now i have some kind of allergies when i moved to live in U.S. My husband said my body immune system has been changing which is much weaker now.


by: FERNANDO
04/12/2012 5:01 PM
GOOD REPORT


by: RUTHNGUYEN
04/12/2012 2:11 PM
I think this is an interesting topic for many people. It gives me some new knowledge. This is also a new research about health and useful for the younger mum. I like it!


by: Said Masoom
04/12/2012 7:25 AM
I am father of 8 children my senior son is in the first class of university and my jonnior dather in the age of 2. when i care my children from dirty they were more unresistened to the diseases .


by: Said Masoom
04/12/2012 7:22 AM
I am father of 8 children my senior son is in the first class of university and my jonnior dather in the age of 2. when i care my children from dirty they were more unresistened to the diseases .


by: Ms.Dieu Quynh-TTLady.
04/10/2012 12:49 AM
This article is so useful for young mothers like me. Thank VOA so much .


by: Tak
04/09/2012 9:02 AM
This article is meaningful so much to grow up children. So, should I stop to use electric-device or air washer to suppress airborne virus for children?


by: majed
04/09/2012 7:01 AM
In light of this report, my sons, egyptian kids in general, are the healthiest in the world, due to the daily dirt exposure they undergo. kids of the world, rise from bed and welter in dirt!!!


by: Binh
04/09/2012 3:19 AM
Probably, this early exercise will be like a vaccine for our health system later on when we grow up

Comments page of 5
    Next 

Learn with The News

  • Audio Greek Vote, China Weigh on East Asia Stock Prices

    Share prices mostly fell on Asian stock markets Monday. Greece’s rejection of European terms for its financial rescue loan and China’s stock market troubles are affecting stock prices across the region. Financial experts say smaller investors are fleeing the stock market and investing in real estate More

  • Audio China May Be Facing Economic Slowdown

    China’s economy is growing slowly after years of strong gains. Some China watchers in the United States say the Chinese economy is slowing to a halt. They use the word stagnating. They say stagnation is a real threat unless new reforms can bring big changes to the Chinese economic system. More

  • Audio Report: Faster Speeds, Less Space on Internet

    A new report says Internet speeds around the world are getting much faster. But it warns that the sharp increase in the number of devices connected to the World Wide Web could cause problems. Solutions to this problem do exist. However, Internet service providers have not begun to use them. More

  • Audio Extremely Dry Weather Raises HIV Risk

    A new study shows a lack of rainfall may be the main reason for financial bad news in rural areas of sub-Saharan Africa. The study finds protecting people from financial hardship may reduce their likelihood of risky behaviors that spread HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus. More

  • Solar Plane

    Video Solar-Powered Plane Lands in Hawaii after Crossing the Pacific

    A plane that uses only solar power landed on the island of Oahu, Hawaii on Friday after being flown across the Pacific Ocean. The flight was the most dangerous part of the plane’s planned 35,000-kilometer trip around the world. The trip is being made without using any fuel. More

Featured Stories

  • Three F-35 Joint Strike Fighters (rear to front) AF-2, AF-3 and AF-4. A new system to prevent pilots from suffering loss of consciousness is being developed for the aircraft.

    Video New Device May Help Jet Pilots

    While flying high above Earth’s surface, jet fighter pilots may suffer loss of eyesight for brief periods. Some pilots may even lose consciousness. These experiences, commonly called blackouts, can lead to tragic results. An Israeli company may have developed a device that could save pilots’ lives. More

  • Audio The Changing Face of America

    The faces of Americans in the United States are changing rapidly. In a few decades, the minority population will become the majority, as the white population decreases in the U.S. Those are the findings of a new report by the Census Bureau. More

  • People-Lewis Black

    Video Summer 2015 Brings Movies for Toddlers to Teens

    A girl's emotions star in 'Inside Out,' an animation from Pixar. 'Minions' is the story of the little yellow creatures from the 'Despicable Me' series. Don't like cartoon movies? Try "Paper Towns' based on a John Green book or 'Ricki and the Flash' starring Meryl Streep and daughter Maggie Gummer. More

  • Everyday Grammar: Beating Problems with Adverbs

    Audio Everyday Grammar: Beating Problems with Adverbs

    Some common mistakes in English happen when speakers confuse adjectives and adverbs. And some adverbs look the same but have opposite meanings. Do not fear, the Everyday Grammar expert is here to sort it all out for you. Learn why -ly usually (but not always) tells you a word is an adverb. More

  • Audio Things You (Probably) Don’t Know About the 4th of July

    Sure, you know Americans celebrate their Independence Day on the fourth day of July. But do you know they have the wrong date? Or where they get all those fireworks? Hint: not from the UK. More

Practice Your Writing

Confessions of an English Learner
Confessions of an English Learner blog

Tell us About Our Programs