Can Living In A Hyper-clean Environment Be Harmful? Know About Hygiene Hypothesis

Parents should recognise that exposing their children to more people or dirt may raise their immunity more effectively. 

Sambhav Kumar
Written by: Sambhav KumarUpdated at: Mar 27, 2023 15:13 IST
 Can Living In A Hyper-clean Environment Be Harmful? Know About Hygiene Hypothesis

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Do you know that living in a very clean environment can also be harmful to your health? Yes, staying healthy does not mean that you completely banish bacteria and germs from your life. Let us understand the reason behind it.

In an article published in the British Medical Journal, 1989, immunologist David Strechan explained that exposure to certain infections can reduce the risk of acquiring future allergies. David named this observation as the Hygiene Hypothesis.

What Is Hygiene Hypothesis

The hygiene hypothesis postulates that the children who grow up in a very clean or rather hyper-clean environment, do not often come in contact with microorganisms that cause disease. This increases the chance of getting dangerous ailments in future.

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The hygiene hypothesis can be understood by the concept that pathogens in our immune system activate T helper cells due to which cytokines are released. Cytokines are the proteins that signal our immune system to function. This is the fact that due to less exposure to germs, the activity of the T helper cell decreases, in turn our body wakes up and increases the activity of Th2.

Before birth, the immune system of foetus is low so that it doesn't reject the mother's tissues. But slowly the immune system matures. A child’s exposure to germs and certain infections helps the immune system develop. This teaches the body to differentiate harmless substances from the harmful ones that trigger asthma. Exposure to certain germs teaches the immune system not to overreact. As per experts, high Th2 activity is the characteristic of allergic diseases like asthma. This is the reason that the activity of the T helper cell is very important for our immune system.

Why Is Exposure To Infections Necessary?

Jonathan Hourihane, professor at the RCSI University of medicine and health sciences in Dublin, attributed the increase in cases of eczema, asthma, hayfever and food allergies in Ireland over the past 30 years to the decreasing exposure to  infections.

Asthma is considered as the most common chronic disease in the modern world, according to America's Food and Drug Administration, the hygiene hypothesis could be one of the reasons behind it. 

Research has found that young children from large families are less prone to allergies because they are already exposed to bacteria from their older siblings and develop immunity.

In an interaction with OnlyMyHealth, Dr Asmita Mahajan, Consultant-Neonatology & Pediatrics, SL Raheja Hospital, Mahim(Mumbai), explained that the allergies and autoimmune diseases are less prevalent in countries where the burden of helminths and other parasitic organisms is high. 

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Parents should recognise that exposing their children to more people or dirt may raise the immunity more effectively. This is also known as "educating our immune system".

Lastly, it is important to keep in mind that living an extra hygiene conscious life and keeping your environment hyper clean can also be dangerous for you.