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Little Girls' Excellent Hygiene Might Actually Cause Illness

Little Girls' Excellent Hygiene Actually Might Make Them Sick

Research seems to suggest that children exposed to more germs as little kids are less likely to get illnesses such as asthma, allergies, or autoimmune disorders later in life. And even more research suggests that since little girls tend to be cleaner and play indoors more frequently, they have an increased risk of developing these types of sicknesses. It's called the hygiene hypothesis. To find out more, just keep reading.

Women do have more asthma, allergies, and autoimmune disorders than men. However, young boys, who tend to play in microbial-ridden dirt more often, actually are affected by more illnesses early on. Sharyn Clough of Oregon State University, whose research on the topic was featured in Social Science and Medicine, told NPR, "It's actually pretty good that we have higher sanitation rates than we used to. But it turns out, we just weren't aware of how complex the ecologies of germs are."

In another twist, asthma, allergies, and autoimmune disorders are increasing for both women and men. "So what that means — if the hygiene hypothesis folks are right — is that we're decreasing our exposure to germs all the time even though we have more girls playing sports," said Clough. What do you think about this information? Do your experiences support these theories, or is it just too hard to make the connection?

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Join The Conversation
wolvesvane wolvesvane 6 years
i was a tomboy growing up too, staying outside all day and reisisting hygenine as much as i could-but now i have an immune system made of steel and haven't gotten sick in a long time (although i do sneeze and get a bit stuffy when the weather changes). i don't have a counter example, but baceteria DO become immune to antibacterials after a while. the more we sanitize, the more resistant to it bacteria will become.
MeiGaku MeiGaku 6 years
i was a tomboy as a child, too but was never the out-doorsy type. i have to admit that i've become extremely allergic to cats, pollen, and grass as i've gotten older--these pretty much developed in college, where i had very little exposure to these things (i live in LA, hence... few trees). so this hypothesis really does make sense. in vietnamese, we have a saying that goes something like "eat dirty, live long." we're not saying to not clean your food, but the five second rule (on the table) is not gonna kill you. =)
Jessiebanana Jessiebanana 6 years
I'm the opposite of Natalie Love. I was outdoors all the time, not obsessed with hygiene what so ever, ate dirt and god know what and had a really healthy diet, but I have a many allergies to plants and flowers. I had permanent rashes on the inside of my thighs from sitting in the grass all the time in shorts, but I never developed any immunity to it. I had asthma and when I got sick it was always turn into the bronchitic type thing. I am a total anomaly, my body just hates nature. I can't use lavender, mint (including rosemary), or aloe in my skin and hair care.
Ladyseven Ladyseven 6 years
I totally buy this: my mom didn't buy antibacterial soaps, or lysol or anything, because she thought it could compromise me and my sister's immune systems; we played outside all the time, both of us were tomboys who got filthy, and neither of us have allergies, save for slight lactose sensitivity. Contrast to our cousins, whose mother is a germophobe, always disinfecting everything, and keeping the girls inside: now they both have multiple allergies and skin conditions (excema/rosecea), they also get sick a lot more often, and more severely, than my sister and I. The sickest we've been in the last ten years? I got strep when I was 13, my sister got mono her first semester in college. My cousins? Between them, menengitis, mono, bronchitis, strep and at least a handful of others in the last year alone.
Jaime-Richards Jaime-Richards 6 years
Very interesting, Natalie Love. Thanks so much for sharing!
Natalie-Love Natalie-Love 6 years
I was raised on a farm in Israel, where I was allowed to run around, dig in mud and uncover worms, climb trees, pet dogs and cats, and generally get very messy. I was told I even ate dirt at some point *cringe*. I hated showers and would have to be found on the field by my running mother to get me to take one. Lo and behold, now I'm a very hygienic young woman, with no allergies whatsoever. Pollen? Cats? Bring it on. Not saying kids need to be FILTHY, but since I moved to North America I hear all this craze about anti bacterial everything, yet I know MUCH more people with allergies.
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