Parenting Project: Beneficial bacteria - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Parenting Project: Beneficial bacteria

MADISON (WKOW) -- Doctors say we need bacteria to be healthy, so in a society of hand sanitizer and antibacterial soap, are we too clean?

Oregon mom Ahnaray Bizjak has five-year-old twins, Mackenzie and Zachary.

Ahnaray says, "I am a big proponent of exposing kids to germs so they can build their immune system."

But the twins were born premature, so for the first six months of their lives Ahnaray was told to keep them away from germs.

"We limited the number of people who came to the house and if they did come, they had to wash their hands really well," Ahnaray says.

But doctors say Ahnaray's instincts to expose her children to germs were right. Babies need to pick up bacteria through the birth canal and breastfeeding.

Dr. David Rakel with the UW Madison School of Medicine and Public Health says, "We just need to learn from nature. If we do that, the body often takes care of itself."

Dr. Rakel says if we're too clean, bacteria will adapt and create smarter, more dangerous bugs. The same is true for your body; it will adapt and get stronger if exposed to germs.

That's why Ahnaray's twins are healthier now than when they first started going to daycare. And at home, there are still rules.

Ahnaray says, "Certainly if we are out digging in the sand we wash our hands before dinner and it's always a rule to wash our hands after we go to the bathroom."

And doctors say you still need to cover your cough or sneeze and wash your hands if you have a cold or the flu. But Dr. Rakel says you do not need hand sanitizer or antibacterial soap. Good old soap and water will do. He says, washing your food becomes more important when you don't know where it's from. So if you buy local produce, it's okay to have a little dirt on it. And how about food that falls on the floor? Dr. Rakel says that's okay too. Good thing for Ahnaray.

Ahnaray says, "We have the five second rule at our house."

Now, Dr. Rakel says sometimes bacteria can become dangerous if there isn't a balance and that can cause serious illness or even death. He says the best way to boost your immune system is eat well, exercise, don't smoke, and de-stress.

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