Hygiene hypothesis wrongfully discreditedby Elizabeth "Bjay" Woolley on Sep. 11, 2009, under Health, humor/fun, Life, parenting/family
Me: (To son with spoon in his armpit) I wonder what vitamins are in armpits.
Son: (Dipping spoon into soup and slurping) I think vitamins A, B, and C.
Mysophobia, germophobia, bacteriophobia – how do you get one? These are things I will never be accused of having. In fact, one of these days I might find an angry torch-bearing mob outside my door. However, I would be perfectly safe as none of them would be brave enough to actually step inside.
Maybe someday my husband will finally figure out how to infect me with one of these disorders.
This week I got diagnosed with a genetic disease that can cause breathing problems. I informed my husband the doctor said I would be sensitive to pollution, dust, smoke and allergens. His eyes swept around the dusty room with the thick, plush, dog hair carpet, “Ummm, if that’s the case then why aren’t you dead now?” I shook my head, “I seriously don’t know. Maybe it’s protecting me.”
According to a study published in JAMA in 2002, being around stinky farm animals, slobbery dogs or hairy cats the first year of life seems to be associated with less allergies later in life. So maybe the dog hair on the floor has special powers.
In our Swiffer-and-Lysol world where we keep antibacterial wipes and gels within handy reach, people sensitive to at least one allergen have increased by five since 1980 according to the National Institutes of Health.
Back in 1980 I lived in a small apartment with 2 parents, 4 sisters and 2 parakeets. The place was usually crammed with most of the kids from the Amphi school district. They helped themselves to the fridge, reached into multiple jars with unwashed hands, then passed around the corded phone and remote control. Both parents worked so they came home to disaster and were too tired to clean or yell. That was common back then. Today it’s not rare to see homes that are disinfected more thoroughly than an operating room.
The Federal Drug Administration describes a “hygiene hypothesis” that “suggests that the critical post-natal period of immune response is derailed by the extremely clean household environments often found in the developed world. In other words, the young child’s environment can be ‘too clean’ to pose an effective challenge to a maturing immune system. The problem with extremely clean environments is that they fail to provide the necessary exposure to germs required to ‘educate’ the immune system so it can learn to launch its defense responses to infectious organisms. Instead, its defense responses end up being so inadequate that they actually contribute to the development of asthma.”
This hypothesis has meaning for me. This hypothesis makes sense. This hypothesis is my sword and shield in making excuses.
So admittedly I have some bias regarding how some in the media are reacting to a new study coming out in the September 15 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. It followed 4000 kids in daycare over eight years to see if exposure to more infectious illnesses provided protection from asthma and allergies.
Principle investigator Johan C de Jongste, M.D., wrote, “We found no evidence for a protective or harmful effect of daycare on the development of asthma symptoms, allergic sensitization, or airway hyper-responsiveness at the age of eight years,”
That is well and good, but now we are seeing headlines like “hygiene hypothesis challenged” regarding this study. How can they take that jump and associate it with the hygiene hypothesis when the study abstract did not?
On behalf of the hygiene hypothesis, I wish to file a libel claim.
Unless this daycare avoided regular disinfection, could stand some dusting/sweeping, and had a resident butt-licking dog, I don’t know if I can consider this a challenge.
Until then, I remain a faithful believer in the hygiene hypothesis and the benefits of armpit vitamins and dog hair.