Are We Too Clean?

Exposure To Germs Key To Preventing Allergies

by: Alex Thom
Could exposure to things like cockroach poop and mouse dander be the key to preventing allergies?

A new study out of Johns Hopkins seems to indicate that exposing newborns to things like dust, germs, and allergens may actually help them build tolerances and prevent allergies and asthma later in life. The study tracked more than 450 inner-city newborns who had been exposed to mouse and cat dander, cockroach droppings, and more absolutely disgusting sounding environmental germies, yet they wheezed far less than their counterparts in cleaner homes. 

Dr. Robert Wood, author of the study and chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at Johns Hopkins Children's Center, stated, "What this tells us is that not only are many of our immune responses shaped in the first year of life, but also that certain bacteria and allergens play an important role in stimulating and training the immune system to respond in a certain way."

Ok, I get it. I understand that we're sanitizing our lives too much and there's a really good chance that all this protection is what is causing these problems, but until there are more studies about this, I'm not sure exactly how to interpret the data. Expose kids to more cockroach poop? Let mice hang out in the cupboards? There has to be a happy medium somewhere, I'm sure of it. Certainly our Western obsession with cleanliness may have something to do with the allergy epidemic (studies definitely prove that those who live on farms have less environmental allergies than city-dwellers), but we also know that certain exposures to germs and allergens can be detrimental to health.

I'm so happy to see that studies are being done to get to the root of the allergy and asthma issues, but I'm not ready to bring home vermin just yet. How about you?

For more studies on allergies, check out "Eating Nuts While Pregnant Wards off Allergies," "Desensitizing Peanut Allergies," and "Potential New Treatment For Asthma Sufferers."