I never thought I would say this, but I think McDonald’s in moderation (once a month for us) can be great for families. Before having Madi, the only time I would eat McDonald’s was on road trips. On cold nights when my husband and I both finish work late, one of the most fun and time-efficient activities we discovered are family dinners at McDonald’s play area and some fun at the play area.
The first time I went to a McDonalds play area, I was petrified of all of the “germs” that Madi could be exposed to. As a physician I knew that there have been studies published that suggested that exposure to bacteria may be beneficial to children’s immune systems, but I still worried that Madi would get sick going to play areas and that exposure to certain bacteria too early might be too risky.
I reviewed a study published in 2014 in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. This study suggested that children with the highest exposure to specific allergens and bacteria during their first year were the least likely to have recurrent wheeze and allergies. As a physician, I have seen many infants and toddlers who attend daycare/play areas frequently get upper respiratory tract infections. What I gleaned from my own personal experience as a physician and the study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology is that exposure to “germs” in the short term may result in lots of colds, but in the long run, kids may end up hardier and less likely to have allergies. Knowing that, I take Madi to lots of different play areas and try not to freak out when she licks something or puts something in her mouth.
Over the past year, we developed a routine of going to McDonald’s play area when we were really busy or really tired. We eat dinner together (we try to stick to the healthier options) and then after eating we let Madi get wild at the play area. It’s a cheap date night for the family and instead of worrying about making dinner and cleaning up after, we can focus on spending time with each other.
This post was authored by Stephanie Liu, MD, CCFP, MSc, BHSc.
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