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Super-Clean Kids Get Asthma,
Eczema, More Often


, Reuter's Health

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 findings.

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 and hands.

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 condition.

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," she noted.

SOURCE: Archives of Disease in Childhood 2002;87:26-29.


Reference Source 89

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