Tuesday, May 28 2013
Children too clean for their own good
CHILDREN are suffering from an epidemic of eczema and asthma because they are being washed too often, say experts.
A study shows that children of parents with the highest standards of cleanliness are up to three times more likely to develop wheezy symptoms and skin problems.
Doctors have produced new evidence to back the idea that early exposure to germs spread by contaminated food and dirt may give children protection against developing allergic conditions.
Experts believe too- clean lifestyles are driving the rise in allergies and asthma – known as the ‘ hygiene hypothesis’ – because they fail to wake up the immune system.
The new study by experts at Bristol University comes as Britain is grappling with an asthma epidemic-affecting 3.4million, including a million children.
The study, published today in the Archives of Disease in Childhood-looked at the hygiene of almost 11,000 children.
Parents were surveyed about the frequency of washing their children’s hands and bathing them at the age of 15 months.
They were also asked about symptoms of wheeziness and eczema in their children between the ages of two and four years.
The study found that children with the most severe form of eczema were most likely to be the cleanest. Researcher Dr Andrea Sherriff said the most washed children were up to three times more likely to have symptoms of eczema and asthma.
She said: ‘These children were being bathed or had a shower twice a day and their hands were being washed almost constantly.
‘This explanation is not the whole answer because genes are important. But it seems to be a cog in the wheel of environmental factors involved and supports the hygiene hypothesis – that too-clean lifestyles are affecting children’s risk.’
Dr Sherriff said parents should not go to the other extreme and encourage their children to get dirty in an effort to ward off eczema and asthma.
‘It is true that children need to be exposed to bugs that help the immune system to evolve but we have managed to get rid of many infectious diseases because of increased standards of hygiene,’ she said.
‘A balance needs to be struck which moves away from the home as a semi-sterile environment but doesn’t put children at risk of disease because they are not kept clean enough.’