Recently, Dr. Marc Siegel from the Fox News Medical A Team shared with viewers new recommendations that children should be allowed to eat dirt rather than refrain from doing so. The reason for the recommendation is that we are becoming too sterile and germaphobic. By doing so, young children are not being exposed to microorganisms that are necessary to help them develop healthy immune systems. Our recent aversion to any and all germs predisposes us to future problems as we get older, including diseases of the immune system, more severe infections, as well as allergies.
Unfortunately, Dr. Marc’s recommendations are at best incorrect and at worst potentially deadly for our children.
Where do our pets eliminate? The answer is in our yards, in the dirt at the local park, and in the community sandbox.
Where do wildlife, particularly possums, coyotes, and raccoons, eliminate? The answer is also in our yards, in the dirt at the local park, and in the community sandbox.
Unfortunately wildlife as well as our pets carries a whole host of parasites in their droppings. Of particular concern are ascarids, also known as the common roundworm.
Roundworms are ubiquitous, likely infecting every puppy and kitten in the world, which is why current recommendations are to deworm all puppies and kittens beginning at 2 weeks of age up until approximately 8 to 10 weeks of age, regardless of microscopic examination of their feces during their veterinary visits.
However, animal roundworms also can infect people, especially children, as they are zoonotic (meaning they can be transmitted from animals to people.)
By encouraging children to eat dirt, Fox News is unknowingly exposing millions of children to potentially deadly roundworms that can cause 2 devastating conditions in children: visceral larval migrans and ocular larval migrans.
Visceral larval migrans is a condition where animal roundworms infect a child’s internal organs, especially the liver or the brain. In ocular larval migrans, the roundworm accidentally ends up inside one or both of the eyes of the victim, often resulting in blindness and the need for removal of the affected eye.
While it is true that we have become way too paranoid about germs, and actually need exposure to germs on a regular basis in order to have healthy immune systems, simply encouraging parents to allow or encourage their children to eat dirt which is likely infected with roundworm a is dangerous medical advice. The recommendation is not surprising however, as medical doctors have little or no understanding about zoonotic diseases, something veterinarians deal with on a daily basis in their practices. Fox News should have checked with a veterinarian prior to encouraging this potentially dangerous habit.
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