Does Dirt Have Germs? Targeted Hygiene

Medically Reviewed on 6/25/2021
dirt has germs
Yes, dirt has germs, but here's why letting your kid play in the dirt can actually be good

Yes, dirt has germs. But not all germs are harmful. In fact, some of those germs are important for our immune systems and overall health.

As a parent, you want to protect your kids from anything that could be bad for them. But playing in the dirt isn’t one of them, and here’s why.

Why dirt isn’t always bad for kids

According to what’s known as the hygiene hypothesis, today's homes are overly sanitized, meaning kids aren’t getting exposed to enough germs when they’re young. When a child isn’t exposed to bacteria, their immune system isn’t trained to fight off infections and disease. 

So while our homes and hands should always be clean, excessive cleanliness can actually contribute to allergies and more illnesses. In fact, studies have shown that infants who are exposed to household bacteria and pet dander are less likely to suffer from allergies and asthma.

Letting your child play outside and be exposed to diverse microbes from people, animals, and nature is vital to the development of a healthy immune system. It helps their bodies build a health balance of microbial flora in the gut and respiratory tract.

What is targeted hygiene?

Of course, you shouldn’t go overboard with just letting your kids touch anything and everything, since some germs can be dangerous. Balance is key to building a healthy immune system in the long run. That’s why following targeted hygiene practices is important.

Targeted hygiene is when parents protect their children from germs and bacteria but only when there is risk of infection. Handwashing is a simple way to adopt targeted hygiene practices. 

Teach your child to wash their hands with soap and water:

  • After they come home from outside
  • After they have touched an animal such as a pet
  • After using the bathroom or toilet
  • Before they touch any food item
  • After handling raw meat, fruits, or vegetables
  • After sneezing, coughing, or blowing their nose
  • After they have come in contact with a sick person

Targeted hygiene also includes:

  • Cleaning surfaces that come in contact with food
  • Cleaning surfaces regularly touched by many people
  • Washing dishcloths immediately after using them

When it comes to preventing infection, use common sense. It may not be necessary to clean and disinfect every single room and piece of furniture on a daily basis (unless someone is sick in the home). But the kitchen and bathrooms should be cleaned and disinfected regularly.


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Medically Reviewed on 6/25/2021
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