An article in Daily Mirror yet again questions whether children of parents with the highest standards of cleanliness are more likely to develop allergies.
The idea is based on the so-called “hygiene hypothesis” which is the concept that early exposure to many different bugs and bacteria ensures our immune system develops properly so it doesn’t overreact to innocent substances. Whilst this may be correct, we need to get away from the idea that this is due to something called “home cleanliness” and we must start distinguishing between cleanliness and hygiene.
We now know the "bugs and bacteria" we need are largely non harmful types which inhabit humans, animals (skin, gut etc) and our environment. It seems likely that "loss" of the microbe exposures we need have largely occurred as a combined result of changes like clean water, food, sanitation, etc which are vital to protect us against infection but have also inadvertently reduced exposure to the "good" microbes which tend to occupy the same habitats. Increased urban and indoor living – and possibly also antibiotic overuse are also factors. The contribution of "home cleanliness", is likely to be very small – excessive cleaning does not sterilise the home anyway – and hygiene remains the key cornerstone of protecting our children from infections.
The question then is "how can we best protect our children against infection whilst at the same time ensuring they are being exposed to our microbial world". The best answer is "let them go out and play together and get dirty, but strictly observe the rules of hygiene in the times and places that matter like food hygiene, hand hygiene, toilet hygiene, respiratory hygiene, laundry hygiene etc"
The article can be found at: http://www.mirror.co.uk/lifestyle/health/having-house-thats-clean-giving-6441712