Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

The Hygiene Hypothesis: Are Cleanlier Lifestyles Causing More Allergies For Kids?

Date:
September 9, 2007
Source:
University of Michigan Health System
Summary:
A little dirt never hurt. But in today's super-clean world, vaccinations, anti-bacterial soaps, and airtight doors and windows are keeping dirt and disease-causing germs at bay. While staying germ-free can prevent the spread of disease and infections, leading a cleanlier lifestyle may be responsible for an increase in allergies among children.

While staying germ-free can prevent the spread of disease and infections, leading a cleanlier lifestyle may be responsible for an increase in allergies among children.
Credit: iStockphoto/Franky De Meyer

A little dirt never hurt. But in today’s super-clean world, vaccinations, anti-bacterial soaps, and airtight doors and windows are keeping dirt and disease-causing germs at bay.

While staying germ-free can prevent the spread of disease and infections, leading a cleanlier lifestyle may be responsible for an increase in allergies among children.

“It’s called the hygiene hypothesis,” says Marc McMorris, M.D., a pediatric allergist at the University of Michigan Health System. “We’ve developed a cleanlier lifestyle, and our bodies no longer need to fight germs as much as they did in the past. As a result, the immune system has shifted away from fighting infection to developing more allergic tendencies.”

The body’s immune system is designed to fight infection (bacterial, viral and parasites), but also recognizes foreign substances as allergens.

With the advent of vaccines, however, the immune system is no longer taxed with fighting off life-threatening diseases such as polio and measles. And thanks to antibiotics, the immune system is no longer burdened to the extent it was in the past, with fighting common bacterial infections.

Even our homes have changed how our immune system functions. Air tight doors and windows – designed to save energy – have created an increased concentration of indoor allergens.

Plus, McMorris says, today’s family is smaller, which lessens children’s exposure to germs and infections. Families with three or more children – a more common family dynamic 20 or 30 years ago – tend to have fewer allergies because more children mean more germs and greater exposure to bacteria and viruses.

“The natural immune system does not have as much to do as it did 50 years ago because we’ve increased our efforts to protect our children from dirt and germs,” says McMorris.

“Allergies are on the rise because our society has changed the way we live. As a result, people with allergies are having children with others who have allergies, which in turn creates a natural increase in the prevalence of allergies in our society.”

Allergies are a reaction by the body's immune system to foreign substances – pollen, mold, animal dander, dust and dust mites, insect stings and certain foods – that it deems harmful.

So, is there a way to find a balance in our super clean world?

According to McMorris, finding a balance between healthy living and clean living may be a challenge.

“We all try to do our best with our children,” he notes. “We certainly should not step back in time and stop immunizing our children against deadly diseases. But we should use more common sense. While we should keep our houses clean, we need to be diligent about changing our furnace filters and keeping allergens like mold out of attics and basements.”

Ultimately, McMorris advises parents to just let kids be kids. Let them play outside and with friends, and don’t worry about them coming into contact with dirt and germs – but always be cautious with children with life-threatening food allergies, he cautions.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Michigan Health System. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Michigan Health System. "The Hygiene Hypothesis: Are Cleanlier Lifestyles Causing More Allergies For Kids?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 September 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070905174501.htm>.
University of Michigan Health System. (2007, September 9). The Hygiene Hypothesis: Are Cleanlier Lifestyles Causing More Allergies For Kids?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070905174501.htm
University of Michigan Health System. "The Hygiene Hypothesis: Are Cleanlier Lifestyles Causing More Allergies For Kids?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070905174501.htm (accessed July 25, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Friday, July 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

New Painkiller Designed To Discourage Abuse: Will It Work?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) The FDA approved Targiniq ER on Wednesday, a painkiller designed to keep users from abusing it. Like any new medication, however, it has doubters. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Doctor At Forefront Of Fighting Ebola Outbreak Gets Ebola

Doctor At Forefront Of Fighting Ebola Outbreak Gets Ebola

Newsy (July 24, 2014) Sheik Umar Khan has treated many of the people infected in the Ebola outbreak, and now he's become one of them. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Condemned Man's US Execution Takes Nearly Two Hours

Condemned Man's US Execution Takes Nearly Two Hours

AFP (July 24, 2014) America's death penalty debate raged Thursday after it took nearly two hours for Arizona to execute a prisoner who lost a Supreme Court battle challenging the experimental lethal drug cocktail. Duration: 00:55 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Can Watching TV Make You Feel Like A Failure?

Newsy (July 24, 2014) A study by German researchers claims watching TV while you're stressed out can make you feel guilty and like a failure. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

    Health News

      Environment News

        Technology News



          Save/Print:
          Share:

          Free Subscriptions


          Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

          Get Social & Mobile


          Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

          Have Feedback?


          Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
          Mobile: iPhone Android Web
          Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
          Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
          Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins