Pick up that mop - spotless homes don't make for unhealthy kids
MOTHERS and fathers have one less reason to drop the mop and hide the Hoover from today - because scientists have debunked a popular modern theory that living in clean homes harms children’s health.
In recent years the ‘hygiene hypothesis’ has become an acceptable excuse to leave the house in a condition that could be described as ’lived-in’.
The theory holds that lack of exposure to common microbes, caused by living in spotless homes, means children’s immune systems do not develop as they should. This could explain large rises in asthma and other allergic conditions, it contends.
First proposed in a British Medical Journal article in 1989, it has almost reached the status of received wisdom.
But now microbiologists say the theory is wrong. A new scientific report, examining more than 20 years of research, concludes the hygiene hypothesis is not supported by the evidence.
Sally Bloomfield, honorary professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), said: “The underlying theory that microbial exposure is crucial to regulating the immune system is right.
“But the idea that children who have fewer infections, because of more hygienic homes, are then more likely to develop asthma and other allergies does not hold up.”
She is presenting the report with colleagues today at the national conference of the Infection Prevention Society in Liverpool.
Dr Rosalind Stanwell-Smith, also from the LSHTM, said: “Allergies and chronic inflammatory diseases are serious health issues and it’s time we recognised that simplistically talking about home and personal cleanliness as the cause of the problem is ill-advised.
"It’s diverting attention from finding workable solutions and the true, probably much more complex, causes.”
However, Graham Rook, emeritus professor of medical microbiology at University College London, has proposed an alternative version of the theory.
His ‘Old Friends’ thesis contends that lack of exposure to microbes that have been familiar to humans since the Stone Age is really responsible.
He said modern homes had a less diverse mix of microbes than rural homes of the past. But he said the amount of cleaning we do of the places we now live makes little difference.
Stephen Adams Telegraph.co.uk