Mt. Vernon Register-News

CNHI Special Projects

March 27, 2013

Hyper-cleanliness may make us prone to getting sick

(Continued)

Because each of these factors has been associated with reduced risk of allergies and related diseases, researchers can't pinpoint which factor or combination of factors provides the protection.

Parasites and disease-causing microbes have also shown a protective effect, but again it's not clear which microbes are doing the protecting. A 2007 study that compared genetically related children living in Finland and Russia found that the Russian children — who were less wealthy than their Finnish counterparts and who more frequently showed antibodies to the hepatitis A virus, H. pylori bacteria and other microbes associated with poor hygiene practices — were far less likely to have allergies. The findings made it clear that microbial infections and environmental differences were conferring an advantage, but they were less conclusive about which infections conferred the greatest advantage.

So what does all this mean? Should we ditch spring cleaning and adopt a dairy cow — or a parasite — to keep allergies at bay?

Probably not, says Barnes: Modern hygiene saves lives and prevents the spread of disease, and no researcher would advocate abandoning it entirely. But we may want to rethink our relationship with germs, she says.

"Knowing what I know about the hygiene hypothesis, I think twice before I run to a physician for an antibiotic," she says. "I also think about the foods my family eats. We eat a lot of yogurt for the beneficial bacterial cultures it provides."

Zasloff goes even further. He doesn't mind if his kids eat a little dirt, don't wash their hands before every meal or wear the same socks twice. Eating food that's been in the fridge a while or that has fallen on the floor is okay, too, he says.

That may not be for you. The important thing, Zasloff says, is moderation: "It's not that you should expose yourself to things that are going to kill you. We're just talking about living in a more microbially rich environment. That means you don't need to use antibacterial soaps or wipes, or clean everything with bleach, or even wash your clothes every day. Getting dirty isn't so bad. . . . Just use your common sense."

Text Only
CNHI Special Projects
  • Church's denied request for National Guard visit draws national attention

    A Missouri church finds itself in the middle of a media storm after the Missouri National Guard, citing short notice and time constraints, was not able to fulfill a request last week to appear at the church’s vacation Bible school.

    August 1, 2014

  • lockport-police.jpg Police department turns to Facebook for guidance on use of 'negro'

    What seems to be a data entry mistake by a small town police department in western New York has turned into a social media firestorm centered around the word "negro" and whether it's acceptable to use in modern society.

    July 31, 2014 3 Photos

  • Survey results in legislation to battle sexual assault on campus

    Missouri U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill joined a bipartisan group of senators Wednesday to announce legislation that aims to reduce the number of sexual assaults on college campuses.

    July 30, 2014

  • An alarming threat to airlines that no one's talking about

    It's been an abysmal year for the flying public. Planes have crashed in bad weather, disappeared over the Indian Ocean and tragically crossed paths with anti-aircraft missiles over Ukraine.

    July 30, 2014

  • linda-ronstadt.jpg Obama had crush on First Lady of Rock

    Linda Ronstadt remained composed as she walked up to claim her National Medal of Arts at a White House ceremony Monday afternoon.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Can black women have it all?

    In a powerful new essay for the National Journal, my friend Michel Martin makes a compelling case for why we need to continue the having-it-all conversation.

    July 29, 2014

  • Dangerous Darkies Logo.png Redskins not the only nickname to cause a stir

    Daniel Snyder has come under fire for refusing to change the mascot of his NFL team, the Washington Redskins. The Redskins, however, are far from being the only controversial mascot in sports history.  Here is a sampling of athletic teams from all areas of the sports world that were outside the norm.

    July 28, 2014 3 Photos

  • 'Rebel' mascot rising from the dead

    Students and alumni from a Richmond, Va.-area high school are seeking to revive the school's historic mascot, a Confederate soldier known as the "Rebel Man," spurring debate about the appropriateness of public school connections to the Civil War and its icons.

    July 28, 2014

  • Fast food comes to standstill in China

    The shortage of meat is the result of China's latest food scandal, in which a Shanghai supplier allegedly tackled the problem of expired meat by putting it in new packaging and shipping it to fast-food restaurants around the country

    July 28, 2014

  • wd saturday tobias .jpg Stranger’s generosity stuns Ohio veteran

    Vietnam War veteran David A. Tobias was overwhelmed recently when a fellow customer at an OfficeMax store near Ashtabula, Ohio paid for a computer he was purchasing.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

Twitter Updates
Facebook
Stocks