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Archive for Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Don’t eat the white snow, either

March 5, 2008

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Luke Potts, 6, of Kirkwood, Mo., drops into the snow and opens his mouth hoping to catch a snowflake Tuesday afternoon on an outing with his family. A new study shows snow contains large amounts of bacteria, though it's fairly harmless.

Luke Potts, 6, of Kirkwood, Mo., drops into the snow and opens his mouth hoping to catch a snowflake Tuesday afternoon on an outing with his family. A new study shows snow contains large amounts of bacteria, though it's fairly harmless.

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— 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.

"We eat stuff that's covered with bacteria all the time, and for the most part it's killed in the stomach," says Dr. Joel Forman, a member of the pediatric academy's committee on environmental health. "Your stomach is a fantastic barrier against invasive bacteria because it's a very acidic environment."

There are exceptions. "Tiny kids on formula a lot of times don't have the acid in their stomachs," making them more vulnerable to bacteria in general, says Dr. Lynnette Mazur, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas Medical School. Also, Forman and Mazur say that Pseudomonas can be a threat to people with cystic fibrosis.

The study, published last week in the journal Science, didn't examine the effects on people. And experts say without further information, it is impossible to say what the bacteria could do to a child who eats extraordinary amounts.

"I can say that I'm not aware of any clinical reports of children becoming ill from eating snow. And I looked," Forman says.

In any case, because of ordinary air pollution in snow, it's probably wise not to eat a lot of the stuff, pediatricians say.

For parents in search of guidance, Mazur offers this: Licking a little snow off a glove is probably OK. "A meal of snow" is not.

Some parents say they are not going to worry about their kids eating snow that looks clean.

"My snow-eating concerns are generally more of the dirt-urine variety," says Kristin Lang, 37, of Maplewood, N.J., whose 2-year-old son Charlie has swallowed his share of snow.

"When I heard bacteria, at first I went 'eew,'" says Tricia Sweeney, a mother of three in Cornwall-on-Hudson, N.Y. But as long as the kids eat snow as it's falling, "I think it's OK. I tell them not to eat it if it's on the ground."

Comments

Woodduck_5363 6 years, 9 months ago

This is a shame how far we have let things go iinour world. Every where we look and hear everything is bad for us. The simple pleasures we all shared as a child. Eating, playing and oh yes making ice cream from the snow. In our own land we are held hostage, we can't eat anything meat. veggies, eggs,etc for fear of dieing or being sick. Now no snow what is next???? But that is the price we pay for progress.

gr 6 years, 9 months ago

"it is impossible to say what the bacteria could do to a child who eats extraordinary amounts."

If it's extraordinary amounts of snow they're eating, how about hypothermia?

"But as long as the kids eat snow as it's falling, "I think it's OK. I tell them not to eat it if it's on the ground."

Otherwise the bacteria crawl up from the ground in freezing temperatures?

"The simple pleasures we all shared as a child." Woodduck, you think the bacteria wasn't there in the past?

"But that is the price we pay for progress." You mean the progress of the news media for "hyping" everything?

GSWtotheheart 6 years, 9 months ago

you know, when I was growing up:

my mom washed our counter with a sponge, not antibacterial wipes we washed our hands and didn't use antibacterial soap or goo we ate snow we rode our bikes with no helmets, knee pads, or shoulder pads we mucked about in creeks and other muddy areas we rode in the back of pickup trucks we rode the school bus with no seat belts and no air conditioning we played outside after dark

and do you know the worst thing that ever happened to me? Not a darn thing!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

WHY 6 years, 9 months ago

So now that snow is a biohazzard we will have to shovel and bag it.

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