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Are We Too Clean?

Are We being Too Clean

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Earlier this month researchers in Belgium suggested that the use of bleach as a cleaning product could actually cause more harm to children’s health than it prevents.

In a study involving more than 9,000 schoolchildren from Spain, the Netherlands and Finland, researchers concluded that a 20% increase in risk of flu and a 35% higher chance of recurrent tonsillitis may be down to parents’ generous use of bleach around the home. However, the study, which was conducted by researchers from Belgium’s Centre for Environment and Health was merely observational and so while figures suggested that bleach may contribute to respiratory problems, the evidence was not definitive. So are we being too clean or should we strive to eradicate all germs from the home?

Allergies and asthma

Between the 1970s and the 1990s the number of children diagnosed with allergies or asthma increased pretty dramatically. One theory, often referred to as the ‘hygiene hypothesis’ suggests that children who were exposed to fewer germs were more likely to develop asthma or an allergy.

Figures showing that kids with older siblings, those with pets and those who attended nursery from a young age were less likely to develop allergies suggest that exposure to germs does help protect against them. However, the rise in allergies isn’t quite as clear-cut as the hygiene hypothesis would have us believe. Experts argue that other elements of modern life may contribute to the rise in allergies. These factors include changes to our diet, a lack of vitamin D, an increased use of medicines, pollution and climate change.

Using germs to strengthen the immune system

Are We being Too CleanExperts tend to agree that exposure to good and bad germs throughout life can help strengthen the immune system, training it to recognise the difference between harmful and harmless germs and letting it know when it needs to kick in. However, that doesn’t mean we should be careless about the germs we expose ourselves (and our families) to as some germs, such as Ecoli or salmonella, are potentially life threatening. Rather than just using germs to boost the immune system, the best way to ensure you’re fit and able to fight off infection is to lead a healthy lifestyle with a wholesome diet and plenty of exercise.

Good hygiene

Practising good hygiene is key to preventing the spread of germs and avoiding infection. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean your home has to be gleaming all the time. A little dirt never hurt anyone and as long as your family wash up before preparing or eating food and good hygiene is used after using the loo, blowing your nose or patting a dog, for example, then there’s absolutely no need to freak out if your offspring come home covered in dirt.


The trick to keeping your children safe from germs is to keep a balanced view of dirt and germs. Of course, you should strive to keep kitchens and bathrooms clean and germ-free for the sake of everyone’s health but otherwise, not everything has to be washed and sterilised all the time. A happy medium should allow immune systems to develop while stopping infection from spreading.



About Maria Brett

About Maria Brett

Maria is a freelance writer with over 10 years' experience producing content for a variety of publications and websites. When not working or looking after her two gorgeous sons, she can usually be found playing flugelhorn in a brass band, helping out at her local hospital radio station, shouting at the television while watching Formula 1, at the cinema or plonked on the couch with a cold glass of wine.

Website: Maria Brett

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