If you’re telling your grandkids to get their fingers out of their mouths, you might want to reconsider.
Last week, a study published in the journal Pediatrics indicated that children who suck their thumbs or bite their nails are significantly less likely to develop allergies later in life.
The reason behind these findings, it’s believed, is that these kids exposed themselves to more microbes and bacteria, thus strengthening their immune systems and decreasing environmental sensitivities.
Habits That Could Actually Be Healthy for Your Grandkids
It might seem rude or immature, but these habits can actually do your grandchildren a lot of good. Adults who were reported to be heavy thumb-suckers or nail-biters were far less likely to have allergic reactions, indicating that their bodies were better prepared to deal with allergens.
Even if your grandchild is pushing 10 years old, you might not want to stop their habit because it could be benefiting their health and growing their microbiome. A diverse microbiome has a number of health benefits including better digestion and nutrient absorption, reduced risks for diseases, and even improved body composition. In essence, the benefits of these habits could last a lifetime.
Kids today grow up differently than you did. Many of them live in a bubble where they play indoors, are encouraged to act like adults, and are never given the opportunity to get outside and get dirty. We’re learning that exposure to dirt, the environment, and the things so many of us find gross as adults—but loved as children—play major roles in health, immune system development, and bacterial makeup.
It should, however, be noted that if the child continues to bite their nails or suck their thumb obsessively, it might indicate an issue such as anxiety, in which case it’s best to take them to see a doctor to address any underlying causes. Moderate thumb-sucking and nail-biting could be acceptable, but at a certain point it might be cause for concern.
Still, the next time your grandchild is biting their nails or sucking their thumb, maybe think twice before telling them to smarten up and mind their manners—they could be doing themselves a lot of good!
Sources for Today’s Article:
Klass, P., “Thumb Suckers and Nail Biters May Develop Fewer Allergies,” New York Times web site, July 11, 2016; http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2016/07/11/do-dirty-habits-help-the-immune-system/?_r=0, last accessed July 13, 2016.
Lynch, S., “Thumb-sucking, nail-biting, and atopic sensitization, asthma and hay fever,” American Academy of Pediatrics web site, July 2016; http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2016/07/07/peds.2016-0443?sso=1&sso_redirect_count=1&nfstatus=401&nftoken=00000000-0000-0000-0000-000000000000&nfstatusdescription=ERROR%3a+No+local+token, last accessed July 13, 2016; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2016-0443