The Dirt On Germs: They Aren't All Bad
A pediatrician on why mud pies can be healthy
It never fails. You go to the local playground, you turn your back for five minutes and your kid has stuck dirt or a worm in her mouth. Without constant attention, your child is covered in mud and has his shoes off whenever he goes outside.
Spending time outdoors is a critical part of kids' fun, but it might also help promote a healthy and happy childhood.
The National Wildlife Federation points out that the decline in the average time kids spend outdoors correlated with escalating childhood obesity rates and Johns Hopkins researchers estimate that 1 in 10 U.S. children have a vitamin D deficiency, a vitamin they would naturally get from sun exposure.
Numerous studies have concluded that Mycobacterium vaccae, a bacteria found in dirt, can help improve mood and brain function.
There's also a reason mud makes your child so happy. Kids who play outside have higher levels of serotonin, a chemical in the brain linked to good moods and reduced stress.
"Getting dirty is an important part of being a kid," Dr. Mangham said. "The things that don't seem like a big deal to adults are wonderful and fascinating to children. Letting them draw patterns in the dust, shaping mudpies and making a mess can be a magical part of growing up."
About the author
Kim Mangham, M.D., is a Cook Children's pediatrician at 1601 Keller Parkway in Keller, Texas. She earned her medical degree at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas. She completed the pediatric residency program at University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City. Her interests include breastfeeding education as well as disease and injury prevention. Dr. Mangham is board certified in pediatrics.