When you were a kid, your parents probably behaved in one of two ways; they either kept everything around you sterile, checked how well you washed your hands, and were too worried when you got dirty in the sand; or they didn’t pay much attention when you touched the ground, a pet, or accidentally put something dirty in your mouth.
It can be hard to decide what is being clean and what is being too clean, but according to the immune system statistics, being too clean may increase your risk of getting an autoimmune or allergic disease.
The Hygiene Hypothesis
The hygiene hypothesis explains the connection between sterile environments during childhood and the inability of the child’s immunity to mature properly. If the immune system wasn’t challenged early on, it might not be able to protect the organism against germs from the environment in the future. That can lead to allergies, asthma, and a number of autoimmune diseases.
It can be tricky to prove the hygiene hypothesis due to the complex process of immunity development. It may be beneficial or unnecessary to expose a young child to infectious agents. However, not allowing children to get a little dirty and cleaning too much around them may enhance the risk of autoimmune diseases.
Microbiome Diversity and Your Immune System
You have microbiomes in your body, but not all bacteria are harmful. Some of them are essential for your gut health because they can strengthen the gut lining, protect against obesity and insulin resistance, prevent pathogenic species of antibiotic-resistant bacteria from invading the gut, and protect against kidney stones by breaking the compounds in plants that cause them.
If you maintain your gut microbiome diversity by exposing yourself to microbes, your gut will function better when it needs to prevent harmful bacteria from entering your body. Therefore, you should avoid living in a sterile home.
It’s recommended that you don’t use antibacterial soaps all the time because it kills all microbes that live on your skin. Use regular soaps instead, to keep your hands clean and protect yourself from infection.
Pets and the Risk of Childhood Asthma
Pets can be a lovely addition to your family. If you have kids, they will have a loyal friend in a pet and will learn to cherish animals from an early age. Even though you might be afraid of exposing children to animals, you should know that it may strengthen their immune system, making them more resilient.
Moreover, a study from 2016 showed that early exposure to dogs and farm animals could reduce the risk of childhood asthma. Dog exposure during the first year of a child’s life was connected to a decreased risk of asthma in school-aged children and preschool-aged children three years or older. There wasn’t a decreased risk for children younger than three years. Exposure to farm animals was also connected to a decreased risk of asthma in school-aged children and preschool-aged children.
However, further studies are needed, as there may be an increased risk of pneumonia and respiratory tract infections in preschoolers, and the results in low-income countries might differ.
Although the hygiene hypothesis is not a 100 percent proven theory, some studies suggest that you can be too clean and try too hard to disinfect everything around yourself or your child.
Some experts suggest exposure to microbes for both you and your kid, and not using antibacterial soaps and disinfectants all the time so that you could become more resistant by coming in contact with harmful microbes.