To the list of simple childhood pleasures the safety of which 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, the Associated Press reported.
But experts say there's no need to banish snow-eating (unless it is obviously dirty or discolored) 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 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." (Isn't that why we have an appendix?)
Want more about what you're eating?
"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 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."
Unless you're a newborn. Don't feed your baby snow or melted snow because, the experts say, tiny kids on formula a lot of times don't have the acid in their stomachs.
OK, so you haven't heard of youngsters getting sick from eating snow, but because of ordinary air pollution in it, it's probably wise not to eat a lot of the white stuff.
Here's where we get down and dirty.
"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."
How long have you stood with your mouth wide open waiting for a snowflake to fall inside?