International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene

Home Hygiene & Health

The Leading Source of Scientific, Professional & Consumer Information
International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene

Home Hygiene & Health

The Leading Source of Scientific, Professional & Consumer Information

IFH News alert: June 2015

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Making Sense of Allergies

Misconceptions about allergies and its causes are addressed in a new guide “Making Sense of Allergies (free online at which was released on Thursday 4th June at the UK Cheltenham Science Festival.

Allergies have risen at an astonishing rate in developed countries. Seven times as many people were admitted to hospital with severe allergic reactions in Europe in 2015 than in 2005. In the 20 years to 2012 there was a 615% increase in hospital admissions for anaphylaxis in the UK, and the percentage of children diagnosed with allergic rhinitis and eczema have both trebled over the last 30 years. Cases are also on the rise in developing countries.

It is little wonder that people are seeking answers, but research about the very complex issue of allergies and their causes has produced conflicting theories and conclusions. Shops, clinics and websites sell allergy tests that don’t work. Allergies are difficult to diagnose and share their symptoms with many other conditions. According to practitioners, far more people think they have an allergy than actually do. The difference between allergy and intolerance is little understood.

As a result, a whole range of misunderstandings and misconceptions have developed in the minds of the public. An area of much confusion lies in the link between allergies and exposure to germs. The so-called ‘hygiene hypothesis’ is now seen as a misnomer, but continues to undermine our attitudes to hygiene at a critical time when antibiotic resistance threatens our ability to treat infections.

This document has been produced by Sense about Science, with the assistance of a range of experts in these issues. The aim is to explain, in simple understandable language, current thinking about the causes, diagnosis and treatment of allergies, and the misconceptions that have developed following the proposal of the hygiene hypothesis in 1989. Sense about Science is a charitable trust that supports the public and others to make sense of scientific and medical information in the public domain.


Myths about rising allergies, being too clean and the hygiene hypothesis – have your say

In response to the release of the Sense about Science publication “Making Sense of Allergies”, the “Conversation”, a global communications organisation for scientists and others has published a feature that examines four often-repeated myths about the so-called hygiene hypothesis and the relationship between rising allergies and reduced microbial exposure, and invites comments from readers.


These common misconceptions are: 

  • Do fewer childhood infections mean more allergies?
  • Are allergies on the increase because of modern obsessions with cleanliness?
  • Will relaxing hygiene reverse the trend in allergies?
  • Are synthetic chemicals linked to the increase in allergies?


Have your say! - The feature can be found at: