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Are we too clean for our own good?

Many people think our obsession with cleanliness is to blame for the rise in allergies such as hay fever, eczema and asthma. The idea is that modern hygiene standards have reduced our exposure to good and bad germs, which can help to ensure that we develop and maintain a healthy and well-regulated immune system, the body’s mechanism for keeping us healthy.

Over the past 20 years there has been a rise in allergies, and no-one really knows why. Around one in four people in the UK suffers from an allergy at some point in their lifetime and numbers are increasing every year. Research suggests that exposure to germs is only one possible reason for this and diet, lack of exercise, our environment, use of antibiotics, lack of vitamin D and a family history of allergies may may play a bigger role.

But what is increasingly clear from the evidence is that hygiene standards should not be relaxed to try to reduce the risk of developing an allergy. The UK website NHS choices has produced this set of Q and As designed to give clear and simple answers to consumers questions about this complex subject

Author: NHS Choices

Citation: http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/homehygiene/Pages/are-we-too-clean-for-our-own-good.aspx

Published: 14/09/2013

Publication Type: Webpage, Factsheet

Publisher: NHS Choices