Hygiene Hypothesis: Is your child too clean?

Dr. Dilli Ramesh, Botsford Pediatric Associates

Dr. Ramesh, holding one of his newest patients at Botsford Pediatric Associates in Farmington, MI. Find him online at botsford.org/bpa.

For a couple decades now, there has been a theory that you may not have heard of:  The Hygiene Hypothesis.  It is the theory that allergies and other conditions may be caused by being “too clean.”  The thought is that we’re not exposing our kids to germs while they are young so they’re not able to fight them off when they grow older and as a result, our children are more often developing illnesses, allergies and even asthma.

This month, there is an updated study released in the UK that says the hypothesis might not be the whole story.  Researchers believe that our kids aren’t necessarily “too clean,” but rather just not exposed to the same kind of germs that we once were prior to the 1800s. Back in those days, we lived on farms and grew our own food.  Even the most unkempt modern home is quite different today and has an entirely different set of germs.  The floors in our homes are no longer made of packed dirt, our exposure to livestock is limited to a petting zoo and it’s rare to even plant small vegetable gardens in our yards let alone entire farms.

The Bottom Line

Personal hygiene and regular hand washing is still a must in our modern world.  Things like the seasonal flu and other infections are always a concern.  There are more people living closer together so these bugs can travel fast.  You must take proper steps to prevent them like hand washing and vaccinations.

When it comes to babies and young children, talk to your pediatrician.  For example, Dr. Dilli Ramesh of Botsford Pediatric Associates says that bathing babies every day is not necessary.  A bath every couple days (or when big messes happen) is usually best to avoid drying out their sensitive skin.  In between baths, a simple wipe down with a warm wet cloth should do the trick.  It’s also advised to teach children good hand washing habits and how to cough into their elbows while making sure they’re up to date on immunizations like the flu shot.

To make an appointment with Dr. Ramesh or any of the other pediatricians at Botsford Pediatric Associates, call (248) 477-0100 or visit botsford.org/bpa.

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