News and Tribune

Community News Network

March 27, 2013

Hyper-cleanliness may make us prone to getting sick

(Continued)

Because each of these factors has been associated with reduced risk of allergies and related diseases, researchers can't pinpoint which factor or combination of factors provides the protection.

Parasites and disease-causing microbes have also shown a protective effect, but again it's not clear which microbes are doing the protecting. A 2007 study that compared genetically related children living in Finland and Russia found that the Russian children — who were less wealthy than their Finnish counterparts and who more frequently showed antibodies to the hepatitis A virus, H. pylori bacteria and other microbes associated with poor hygiene practices — were far less likely to have allergies. The findings made it clear that microbial infections and environmental differences were conferring an advantage, but they were less conclusive about which infections conferred the greatest advantage.

So what does all this mean? Should we ditch spring cleaning and adopt a dairy cow — or a parasite — to keep allergies at bay?

Probably not, says Barnes: Modern hygiene saves lives and prevents the spread of disease, and no researcher would advocate abandoning it entirely. But we may want to rethink our relationship with germs, she says.

"Knowing what I know about the hygiene hypothesis, I think twice before I run to a physician for an antibiotic," she says. "I also think about the foods my family eats. We eat a lot of yogurt for the beneficial bacterial cultures it provides."

Zasloff goes even further. He doesn't mind if his kids eat a little dirt, don't wash their hands before every meal or wear the same socks twice. Eating food that's been in the fridge a while or that has fallen on the floor is okay, too, he says.

That may not be for you. The important thing, Zasloff says, is moderation: "It's not that you should expose yourself to things that are going to kill you. We're just talking about living in a more microbially rich environment. That means you don't need to use antibacterial soaps or wipes, or clean everything with bleach, or even wash your clothes every day. Getting dirty isn't so bad. . . . Just use your common sense."

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Community News Network
LOCAL MAGAZINES
Easter 2014 photos


Click on any photo to purchase it.

SPECIAL CONTENT
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
AP Video
Judge Ponders Overturning Colo. Gay Marriage Ban Airlines Halt Travel to Israel Amid Violence NYPD Chief Calls for 'use of Force' Retraining VA Nominee McDonald Goes Before Congress Bush: Don't Worry, Sugarland Isn't Breaking Up US Official: Most Migrant Children to Be Removed Police Probing Brooklyn Bridge Flag Switch CDC Head Concerned About a Post-antibiotic Era Raw: First Lady Says `Drink Up' More Water Courts Conflicted Over Healthcare Law Holder Urges Bipartisanship on Immigration Raw: Truck, Train Crash Leads to Fireball US Airlines Cancel Israel Flights Obama Signs Workforce Training Law Crash Victims' Remains Reach Ukraine-held City Diplomatic Push Intensifies to End War in Gaza Cat Fans Lap Up Feline Film Festival Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die Veteran Creates Job During High Unemployment
2013 Photos of the year


Take a look at our most memorable photos from 2013.