Thursday, February 19, 2004

In favor of fever

Here's the kind of health research that makes conscientious parenting such a no-win proposition. You go along, keeping your infant healthy, bundling him up when it's cold and shielding her from germ-breathing friends and family members, proud that your little one has successfully resisted illness and must therefore have a remarkably strong constitution -- and then you're hit in the face with evidence that two or more fevers in the first year of life is linked to a lower chance of allergies and asthma down the road. It's all part of a general feeling among researchers -- a "hygeine hypothesis" -- that the more germs our kids are exposed to, the stronger they become. And as much as I like that idea, because it changes me from a lousy housekeeper to a careful cultivator of child-protective microbes, I can't help but cringe for those parents who have been changed from the strong guardians of their children's health to careless compromisers thereof. You bad parents, you! Keeping that baby healthy! What could you have been thinking?

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