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Bad habits in children encourage good health later in life.

Does your child bite their nails or suck their thumb? Although many of us try to encourage our children to stop these habits, it seems that researchers have discovered that it could actually benefit them.

The unexpected health benefits are due to the bacteria living under a kids nail, this bacteria can cause some illnesses, however your child’s immune system strengthens as it builds up a resistance to it, with studies showing that children who bite their nails and suck their thumb were five times less likely to have allergies as adults.

Researchers also discovered that if a child sucked their thumb, and bit their nails, the likelihood of developing allergies was cut by half.

This new discovery is known as the ‘hygiene hypothesis’ and might explain why allergies are more common now than in the Victorian era, a time when the general hygiene and sanitation was a lot worse, but fewer people had allergies.

According to studies, around 50 percent of children suck their thumbs or fingers, and another 30 percent of children bite their nails.

The study looked at the records of 1,037 women and men who have been followed since they were children in the early 90’s, as part of a large health study in New Zealand. All the people being studied had a finger prick test to check for allergies at the age of 13, and another finger prick test again at 32. The study revealed that on average, 49 percent tested positive for at least one allergy at either age 13 or 32, but this number was cut by 38 percent if they had bit their nails or sucked their thumb as a child.

If they did bite their nails or suck their thumb, an allergy was cut to 31 percent, according to the finding published in the journal Pediatrics.

The findings reported in the journal Pediatrics, conclude: “Children who suck their thumbs or bite their nails are less likely to have atopic sensitisation (sensitivity to allergens) in childhood and adulthood.”

Malcolm Sears, co-author of the paper, told the New York Times: “Early exposure in many areas is looking as if it’s more protective than hazardous, and I think we’ve just added one more interesting piece to that information”.

For more information, go to: The Guardian