Hygiene Hypothesis: Can Being Too Clean Contribute to Picking Up Allergies?

As the saying goes, “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” Surprisingly, some recent studies suggest that being too clean could make you more prone to acquiring health conditions like asthma and allergies. While symptoms may not immediately present themselves, more data continues to pile up that these symptoms are manifesting years later.

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One study reveals that babies who are exposed to allergens and bacteria in the home when age one or younger are less likely to experience allergies and wheezing. This finding is called the “hygiene hypothesis” and ut is going against previous studies that aimed to prove that asthma can be triggered by being exposed to great levels of allergens.

A prominent hygiene hypothesis study in regards to the relation of cleanliness and occurrence of allergies in infants was published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. The published work includes a statement from Dr. Robert Wood, the research’s co-author and chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.

To summarize Dr. Wood, the more the body was exposed to the three allergens, “the less likely you were to go on to have wheezing or allergy.”

Among the children studied, 41% who did not show any allergic reaction grew up in a household filled with bacteria and allergens. On the other hand, only 8% of children suffering from allergies had early exposure to bacteria and allergens.

The study supports the hygiene hypothesis and states that children who grew up in an exaggeratedly clean environment are more vulnerable to suffer allergies. The reason behind this is that their bodies did not get the chance to develop the right responses to counteract the allergens.

Dr. Todd Mahr, the chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Section on Allergy and Immunology, said that the environment seems to play a significant role in a child’s capacity to fight off allergens. Dr. Mahr supported the claim that an excessively clean environment won’t allow the infant’s immune system to get stimulated.

Thinking of overly sanitizing your home because your toddler is now on the move and crawling all over the floor? Granted, the doctors have stated that the studies need to be verified further, but you may want to reconsider cleaning excessively. Likewise, don’t deliberately let your home fall into disarray. Clean your house and the nursery, yes. But don’t go overboard about it.