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Stop keeping your kids too clean for their own good!

If you read about children’s health, you’ve heard a lot of this before: Microbes, vilified because they cause infectious diseases, can be beneficial to a child’s well-being. Our society’s penchant for hyper-cleanliness is actually making our children less healthy and more prone to allergies.

But microbiologists B. Brett Findlay and Marie-Claire Arrieta make that case with an unusually convincing display of evidence — as well as historical anecdotes and a parent-friendly sense of humor — in their new book, “Let Them Eat Dirt: Saving Your Child from an Oversanitized World.” They lay out the 19th-century discoveries that identified microbes — germs! — as dangerous carriers of diseases, and the discoveries of the past two decades that have shown us how vital microbes are to our very existence. Then they translate that evidence into accessible, understandable advice.

They explain about avoiding the unnecessary use of antibiotics, and they advocate exposing your children to the great, messy outdoors. Their guide to transitioning babies to solid foods warns: “Don’t delay the introduction of allergenic foods. Offer peanuts, soy, shellfish, etc. . . . between four and seven months of age.” This is followed by an entertaining recitation of what babies eat in other countries, concluding, “The next time your child refuses to eat something you offer, remind her that she should be thankful she’s not in Tibet, where babies eat barley flour mixed with yak butter tea!”


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