General Question

DominicX's avatar

What do you think of the hygiene hypothesis?

Asked by DominicX (28777points) July 10th, 2009

The Hygiene hypothesis states that a lack of early childhood exposure to infectious agents, symbiotic microorganisms, and parasites increases susceptibility to allergic diseases by modulating immune system development.

This could explain why there has been a rise in peanut allergies in recent decades, a thing that didn’t really exist in older times.

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

18 Answers

DominicX's avatar

My mom has always been opposed to what she calls the “Lysol Moms”. And look at us, out of four kids, none of us have any allergies (beyond the occasional need for Kleenex when the pollen comes out) and have never had any diseases worse than the flu. Obviously, it’s a hypothesis, but I just wonder sometimes: why do so many kids have peanut allergies when they never used to, asthma as well.

fireinthepriory's avatar

I think it makes a lot of sense. I haven’t done any work on the immune system, I’m not an expert in the field, but I do have a general knowledge of it, and this hypothesis definitely makes sense based on what I know.

I also know a lot of kids with absurd (severe, numerous or both) allergies whose parents bleach the heck out of anything their kid came into contact with when they were little, whereas kids who have relaxed parents are were allowed to eat a little dirt are much more robust when they grow up.

DominicX's avatar


Seems to be the case. Allergies can be passed down genetically too, which is unfortunate.

My mom says she also doesn’t believe in “sunscreen over every inch of a child’s body from the time they were born.” It doesn’t mean let your kid get sunburned, but let them be exposed to the sun a bit over a period of time.

Facade's avatar

The parents who are obsessed with cleanliness are hurting their children more than helping. We need germs. Everyone go play in the mud

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

Kids find plenty of ways to get exposed to germs on their own even if your home is completely sterile.

tinyfaery's avatar

Why do we have people with more allergies? Simple. In the past, those with severe allergies likely would have died and not reproduced. Now, a severe allergy does not mean death, and genes are being passed on.

DominicX's avatar


I’m talking about an increase in allergies from, say, the 1980s to now, not necessarily a long long time ago versus now.

syz's avatar

There’s a similar idea floating around (I’ll look for a link when I’m not at work) that eliminating intestinal parasites has contributed to an increase in asthma and allergies, based on similar premise that our immune systems no longer have enough to do.

skfinkel's avatar

Some dirt and germs must be good for us. Just think of how our species evolved. On the other hand, the way we produce some food now, for instance, has no connection to natural, and who knows how this is jiggling with our resistances.

For myself, I don’t like cleaning with germ killing materials, and don’t like antibiotics automatically put on every bandage. However, I am resistant to all advertisements, and those germ-killer ads are enough to put me off anything like them forever.

JLeslie's avatar

I kind of agree with @The_Compassionate_Heretic that kids get into germy things on their own. Kids still have 4–6 colds a year I think. Although I do agree too many cleaning chemicals isn’t good. I was not raised in an overly sterile home, and I don’t use antibacterial gels like purell or spray bleach everywhere. I don’t have many “allergies” like asthma, but I do have contact dermatitis in regards to latex and some biological ingredients in some shampoos and cosmetics. I read once that there are more allergies to plant based products than chemical ones.

Maybe it is not the avoidance of germs, but the exposure to the actual chemicals to kill the germs and/or vaccinations to avoid disease, etc.

btko's avatar

I believe in it somewhat, but one can develop an allergy to something at any point in their life; their must be something more to it than we know.

JLeslie's avatar

As I think about this more, I believe that good hygiene is good, what I also think is that many antiseptics/antibiotics are unnecessary. If you wash your hands well, it is just as good as washing them with an antibacterial soap (excluding surgery and open wounds) and you don’t need to use antiseptic liquids to clean a kitchen counter, almost any cleaning agent will do and most bacterias will die once the surface is dry anyway. So I am back to the actual chemicals doing harm, not being too “clean.”

casheroo's avatar

@syz Wow, I haven’t heard that theory yet. I’ll have to look around for some research on it. Is that the whole people eating a ton of probiotics nowadays? Or what?

I think some parents go overboard, and some have to. If you’re in the medical field, you have to wash your hands a lot and use sanitizer. Right now, I wash my hands after handling food and going to the bathroom. I rarely wash my sons hands, I see no point..he just gets all dirty. Dirt is good for kids.

JLeslie's avatar

@casheroo so that begs the question, are health care workers who use sanitizers all of the time more allergic?

casheroo's avatar

@JLeslie In my opinion, no. Because they do it to protect themselves from bacteria a normal person is not exposed to every day, bacteria that can make them very ill. They have to change up their soaps just so it keeps working. I don’t actually think the excessive soap is what causes more allergies. I think it’s something else, I’m not sure what though.

JLeslie's avatar

@casheroo Interesting way to look at it. But still, if they use more antiseptics and have more allergies that would mean something. You are saying they deal with even more germs than the average guy, so if the hypothesis is that germs help protect you against allergies, maybe they have less allergies? Now, I’m getting confused.

I actually believe that health care workers, ESPECIALLY doctors tend to be healthier than the average person, especially in their youth. People who have health issues I think are too exhasted to even think about going through the rigours of becoming a doctor, but this is different than allergies I guess.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

I’ve heard of this before, and it seems to have some truth to it. But then, anecdotal evidence isn’t the best evidence in scientific matters. Someone needs to do a study on this to find out once and for all. Quick, someone get a grant. =)

Answer this question




to answer.

This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.

Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther