Kids Get Asthma,
Eczema, More Often
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Kids who are overly hygienic appear
to be at increased risk of developing wheezing--a symptom of asthma--and
the allergy-related skin condition eczema, according to new study
Dr. Andrea Sherriff of the University of Bristol, UK, and her colleagues
based their results on surveys of more than 9,000 parents, who indicated
how often their 15-month-old children bathed and washed their faces
The investigators found that children with the highest degree
of personal hygiene--those who washed their faces and hands more
than five times per day, cleaned before meals, and bathed more
than two times each day--were the most likely to develop eczema
and wheezing between the ages of 30 and 42 months.
The relationship between hygiene and allergies spanned different
hygiene levels. As the level of hygiene increased, so did the
risk of developing eczema or wheezing.
Increasing levels of hygiene appeared to be especially linked
to a risk of developing severe eczema, the authors note in the
current issue of the Archives of Disease in Childhood. In infants
and young children, eczema manifests as intensely itchy, red patches
that can ooze and crust over. The condition is treated with ointments
and antihistamines, and avoidance of substances that trigger the
Sherriff's team found that taking into account additional factors
that might influence the results, such as family history of allergies
or contact with furry pets, did not affect the relationship between
hygiene and the allergy symptoms.
The link between hygiene and allergies is in step with the so-called
"hygiene hypothesis"--the theory that a lower exposure to germs
affects the immune system's development in such a way that it
is more prone to allergic reactions.
For example, previous studies have found that adults who had
grown up on a farm were less likely to develop allergies, while
young children exposed to older siblings at home and those who
attend day care also have a lower risk of allergies and asthma.
In an interview with Reuters Health, Sherriff said that this
study should not be interpreted as a call to parents to abandon
all hygiene practices. "We do not want to go back to the days
of infections diseases--which we have eradicated partly because
of improved hygiene, in addition to improved antibiotic treatments,"
SOURCE: Archives of Disease in Childhood 2002;87:26-29.
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