I see a lot of parents who are “germaphobic” and are constantly sanitizing anything and everything that may come into contact with their baby. I am not just talking about a newborn...but rather older infants and young children, especially as they start to creep and crawl around their environment. Their mother’s purses have a bottle of hand sanitizer in easy reach and many have the bottle attached to the diaper bag or stroller as well.
But now comes a new study which may help everyone relax a bit...and maybe stop constant disinfecting as well. A recent study in The Journal of Allergy and Immunology found that children, under the age of 1, who shared a “dirty” home, with mouse and cat dander as well as cockroach droppings (I know you are all cringing now) were less likely to develop allergies or wheezing by age 3.
This idea has been called the “hygiene hypothesis”. In other words, having children who are growing up in relatively sterile environments, may lead the immune system to “compensate” by reacting to pollen, dust and dander when there are fewer germs to ward off! Now this doesn’t mean you have to stop keeping your house clean and never making a bed or vacuuming again ( novel idea), but the constant scrubbing and sanitizing may be a bit much. You don’t need anti bacterial soap in every room!
There have been other interesting studies done among children who live on farms. They were taken into the barn as infants with hay, dander and animals all around them. They too were found to have fewer allergies than urban children. So...playing on the dirty barn floor might not only be necessary for farm children, but also protective.
Should you run out and buy mice, a cat and try to breed roaches? I don’t think that is the recommendation. Interestingly, this study did not show that having a dog was protective ....hmmmm when my kids were younger we did have a cat as well as a dog, not by choice but by my middle son’s insistence. Having always had dogs, somewhere in his early child hood years he “bargained” with us to adopt a black kitten that we all grew to love. Maybe that was the best decision we made. Fortunately none of my children have allergies or asthma.
Lots of interesting studies on the horizon relating to this topic....stay tuned as I will keep you posted!