The Washington Post – by Gisela Telis
Monday, March 25, 2013
A growing body of evidence suggests that all the antibacterial-wiping, germ-killing cleanliness of the developed world may actually be making us more prone to getting sick – and that a little more dirt might help us stay healthier in the long run.
The idea, known as the hygiene hypothesis, was first proposed in 1989 by epidemiologist David P. Strachen, who analyzed data from 17,414 British children and found that those who had grown up with more siblings (and presumably more germs) were less likely to have allergies and eczema. Since then, the theory has been cited as a possible explanation for everything from multiple sclerosis to hay fever and autism. But its particulars aren’t so clean and clear.
Here’s what researchers do know: Our immune systems need bugs. They rely on early encounters with germs to learn how to protect our bodies.