Finding your new doctor is easy. We can help.
Doctor's office
Enter your doctor's name to get office information.
Find labs in your network
Enter your primary care doctor's name to find labs in your network.
Find urgent care centers in your network
Enter your primary care doctor's name to find urgent care centers in your network.
Driving Directions
Update Information
Forgot Password

Please enter your e-mail address.

Sharp Health News

Is germ-free the way to be?

Feb. 21, 2019

Kids and germs

The last thing any parent wants is for their child to get sick. Dangerous germs could be lurking anywhere, so many parents dutifully disinfect anything that could threaten their child’s immune system. But could an obsession with sanitization actually be harming children in the long run?

It may seem counterintuitive, but there is mounting evidence that letting your kids get sick early in life is good for them. In fact, natural exposure to a variety of germs not only helps young children develop a more robust immune system ready to respond to major threats later in life, but it could also ward off allergic and autoimmune disorders throughout childhood.

Are we too clean?
Modern public health practices — including water supply decontamination and safe food handling practices, modern medicine, and the use of antibacterial cleaners — have revolutionized society. We are no longer endangering ourselves and our children with an onslaught of diseases and infections. However, as our hygiene and sanitation practices advance, researchers have observed a marked increase in children being diagnosed with autoimmune and allergic conditions.

According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), allergic conditions among children in urban environments in industrialized countries have increased from 1997 to 2011. They found children affected by skin allergies rose from about 7 to 12 percent, and rates have continued to trend upward. Autoimmune disorders, such as Type 1 diabetes, are also on the rise among children.

One possible explanation is that Western society’s fixation on cleanliness, especially when it comes to young children, means kids have less opportunity to naturally develop their immune systems.

“A child’s immune system needs to be challenged early in life in order to produce antibodies against bacteria and viruses,” says Dr. Bina Adigopula, a pediatrician affiliated with Sharp Grossmont Hospital.

Researchers believe the human immune system developed two types of biological defenses. If one system is weaker because it hasn't been trained well enough, the other system can become hyper-reactive to the environment — potentially leading to eczema, allergies and autoimmune diseases.

Protected by natural exposure
Studies show that children with older siblings have lower rates of allergic conditions and are sick less often. This is likely because the older children expose their siblings to a variety of bacteria and viruses when they share toys or food and drinks.

For children without older siblings, Dr. Adigopula says, “Day care and school are great places to get children exposed to influenza, rhinovirus and other common infections. Children can then naturally produce antibodies to overcome infection and will be less sick when they are exposed to the same virus or bacteria again.”

While it is not recommended to intentionally infect children or forgo cleanliness, children should naturally encounter germs as they explore more and more of their world.

“Parents have to take a middle-of-the-road approach. By allowing children to play outside or with other children, they can develop antibodies. Parents should encourage good hand washing habits after playtime to avoid germs like E.coli, staph and MRSA,” Dr. Adigopula says.

Building a strong immune system
There are ways to ensure your child’s immune system gets the right start beyond allowing safe exposure to common bacteria and viruses. Other factors that influence immune development include proper diet, exercise and sleep. Here are some ways to boost your kid’s immune system strength:

  • Give your kids a well-balanced diet with foods that are rich in vitamins and antioxidants, as well as fermented foods, such as yogurt or kombucha, which help develop the digestive immune system.
  • Make sure they drink plenty of water and fluids, avoiding sugary beverages.
  • Establish thorough but reasonable hand washing habits.
  • Make sure they spend plenty of time being active, especially with other kids.
  • Ensure they get adequate sleep, which is vital in rebuilding the immune system.

You might also like:

Choose the doctor who's right for you.

At Sharp, we make it easy to find an exceptional doctor — right where you live and work.

All Categories
Contact Sharp HealthCare
Call us


If this is a life- or limb-threatening emergency, please call 911 immediately.

Email us

Please do not use this form to convey personal or medical information.

How would you like to be contacted?
Date of birth

Find other numbers

View our phone directory

What's This?

These important numbers are located on your billing statement.

Find your Sharp Rees-Stealy account number

Find your Sharp Rees-Stealy account number

Find your Sharp hospital account number

Find your Sharp hospital account number

Find your SharpCare account number

Find your SharpCare account number
What's GDPR?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) governs the processing of personal information gathered from individuals while they are in the European Union (EU) and parts of the EEA (European Economic Area, which currently includes Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway).

We are sorry, but we are unable to process hospital price estimates if you live or are travelling within the EU or affiliated nations.

To learn more, call us at 858-499-5901.

What's This?

Many surgery and procedure names sound similar. If possible, please provide the current procedure terminology (CPT) code, which can be found on the order from your doctor.

If you cannot provide the CPT code, please contact your doctor's office for the CPT or a detailed description of services.