The problem is that we think hygiene and cleanliness are the same thing – and they are not. We are also completely confused between the role of the immune system in fighting infections, and its overreactions to allergens.
This leads to misleading statements like “Many experts believe our obsession with cleanliness is to blame for the rise of allergies. One hypothesis is that our modern hygiene standards have reduced our exposure to good and bad germs which can help strengthen the immune system”.
To develop better understanding of this issue, the International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene (IFH) in partnership with the Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH) are hosting a 1 day conference in London on Thursday, February 11th 2016 entitled “Are we too clean? Reframing the hygiene hypothesis and its implications for the human microbiome, allergies, infectious disease and our lifestyles”
Whilst it is now accepted that changed interaction with our microbial world has increased our risk of developing allergies, most experts agree that the hygiene hypothesis is a misnomer. Use of the term “hygiene” hypothesis continues to undermine attitudes to hygiene and hinder progress in understanding how to tackle these serious but interlinked public health issues. This is happening at a critical time when threats of global infectious disease pandemics, and the numbers of immune-compromised people living in the community are increasing and antibiotic resistance threatens our ability to treat infectious disease.
Unclear information and overgeneralization has resulted in the public losing confidence in hygiene and cleanliness. In reality a whole range of lifestyle and environmental factors have changed exposure to microbes including sanitation, social contact, exposure to the outdoors – and overuse of antibiotics. We aren’t too clean or overdoing hygiene but we now lack exposure to some vital microbes. So what are the prospects for tackling the problem and how can get the message across?
This event will explore new evidence about the nature of the link between microbial exposure and allergies, and will focus on what industry, healthcare and health agencies can do to change perceptions and develop effective strategies. The speakers will look at why hygiene and cleanliness remain so important and how we might develop win-win approaches that minimise risk of infection whilst optimising exposure to the microbes we need. Hand hygiene is just one area in which science and behaviour change programmes can work together to fulfil both roles. We will also look at the role of hygiene in tackling the problem of antibiotic resistance
For more details and booking form go to: https://www.rsph.org.uk/en/courses-conferences-and-events/index.cfm/are-we-too-clean-reframing-the-hygiene-hypothesis