To the list of simple childhood pleasures whose safety has been questioned, add this: eating snow. A recent study found that snow — even in relatively pristine spots like Montana and the Yukon — contains large amounts of bacteria.
Parents who warn their kids not to eat dirty snow (especially the yellow variety) are left wondering whether to stop them from tasting the new-fallen stuff, too, because of Pseudomonas syringae, bacteria that can cause diseases in bean and tomato plants.
But experts say there’s no need to banish snow-eating along with dodgeball, unchaperoned trick-or-treating and riding a bike without a helmet.
“It’s a very ubiquitous bacteria that’s everywhere,” says Dr. Penelope Dennehy, a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ committee on infectious diseases. “Basically, none of the food we eat is sterile. We eat bacteria all the time.”
Children practically bathe in bacteria when they go to the playground, and Dennehy says they won’t get anything from snow that they wouldn’t get from dirt.
Maybe the reason allergies, asthma and other health issues are so prevalent these days among children these days is that we insulate them too much and keep them from building a strong immune system that comes from exposure to bacteria and other germs.