One of the earliest lessons we learn as kids is to never bite our nails. Who knows what kind of bacteria lurks in between that slimy crevice in between the nail and the skin. But what if everything we thought we knew about that pesky habit was wrong? According to a new study from the journal Pediatrics, biting our nails may not be such a bad thing after all.
After studying 1037 children in New Zealand, researchers found that biting your nails as a child might make you less susceptible to allergies as an adult. They began by tracking the children’s nail-biting and thumb-sucking habits from ages 5 to 11, and then tested them for typical allergies all throughout their 30s. The data showed that only 31% of the subjects who bit their nails as children tested positive for allergies.
Lead researcher Malcolm Sears said that his team’s findings were “consistent with the hygiene theory that early exposure to dirt or germs reduces the risk of developing allergies.” But before you start biting your nails to increase your immune system, Dr. Michael Shapiro, director of Vanguard Dermatology told Shape that people should still be mindful about biting their nails. “Bacteria often gets stuck under the nails, and can then be transferred to the mouth, causing infections of the gums and throat," he said. Other natural ways to boost your immune system include exercising, eating fermented food, and meditating.
Learn other ways to naturally boost your immune system with a copy of Immune System, and let us know if you bit your nails as a kid.