Years ago, it was thought that by protecting ourselves and our children from allergens, we would prevent development of allergies and the irritating symptoms that accompany them.
However, some recent studies indicate that living in a “clean bubble” may actually be detrimental.
The thinking is allergies and asthma are more prevalent in our society –especially among children–because our immune systems are not exposed to bacteria, germs and allergens which our bodies need to practice fighting off.
Some scientists believe the use of hand sanitizers and excessive cleanliness contribute to the increase in asthma, allergies and autoimmune disorders in a theory called the “hygiene hypothesis.”
Recently the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology began recommending parents to bring pets into their homes so that the children are exposed to the dander in animal fur so that the kids’ immune systems develop and fortify. Children’s immune system develop throughout their grow span and continue to develop throughout their teens and in some cases early twenties.
Ed Neuzil, ARNP, PhD and owner of the Allergy, Sinus and Asthma Family Health Center in Lady Lake, Florida suggests comparing building the immune system to working out.
“If the exposure is too great and we aren’t ready, we get symptoms. It’s just like overdoing it during when we first start exercising,” said Neuzil. “However, by exposing ourselves to allergens, germs and other irritants a little at a time, we can build and strengthen our immune system so that when we experience a large exposure, our immune systems can better protect us.”
While many of cringe at the thought of letting our children get dirty or exposing them to a classroom of other sniffling, sneezing and coughing kids, there is a happy medium which experts say we should aim for: common sense.
It is important to keep our homes and surroundings hygienic but, except in situations of extreme risk, you don’t have to sanitize everything. Remember that our amazing bodies have immune systems that, after a good workout, will do the job of keeping us healthy.