Allergies Shown To Be Prevented When Children Have These Nasty Habits
Parents all across the world might be reconsidering their choice to scold their children for biting their nails or sucking on their thumbs (please read to the end to see my recommendation).
While we as adults might think the behavior is a sign of immaturity (and is even somewhat nasty), researchers have discovered these behaviors might actually help children resist the formation of allergies later in life.
Researchers at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand published an article in the journal Pediatrics, where they claimed children exposed to microbes at a young age through these behaviors might actually have healthier immune systems than children who don't bite their nails or suck on their thumbs.
This was no short study that gathered these results, either.
In fact, the study lasted for 40 years and the subjects were followed from birth all the way through their 32nd birthdays.
During the course of the study, the subjects' parents were asked about their child's nail biting and thumb sucking behaviors at the ages of 5,7,9 and 11.
After those initial surveys took place, the subjects were then given allergy tests at the ages of 13 and 32.
And that's where things got interesting.
According to the researchers' findings, the children who either sucked their thumbs or bit their nails were much less likely to test positive for one or more allergens.
At the age of 13, only 38% of subjects with one of these habits tested positive for one or more allergens. 49% of subjects who had neither of the habits in childhood tested positive.
However, when it came to children who did both habits (God forbid), they were only 31% likely to test positive on an allergy panel.
Most surprising is these results held true through the second test at the age of 32 as well.
Researchers found these results remained constant, even when they took into account other factors such as gender, history of allergy in the parents, pet ownership in childhood, parents' smoking status, and breastfeeding.
When all was said and done, the researchers did not say parents should encourage the activities of thumb sucking and nail biting, as there is no reason to suspect these activities are what prevent the development of allergies.
And I agree; after all, there are known problems associated with these behaviors.
If anything, this study simply supports the hygiene hypothesis, which states that early exposure to various microbes can help to increase immune function later in life.