Americans’ paranoia about germs appears to be counterproductive:
Dr. Kurt Watkins of Peninsula Regional Medical Center (Salisbury, Md.–ed.) said modern America’s hygienic lives and shrink-wrapped food may be contributing to an increase in food allergies — a problem those who live and work on farms compensate for through exposure to animals and a less sanitized environment. A board certified allergy and immunology doctor with Peninsula Allergy and Asthma Associates, Watkins said the “hygiene hypothesis” is supported by the fact there are very little allergy problems in the third world.
Calling the hygiene hypothesis the most compelling of theories about increased food allergies, he explained that allergies crop up as a result of the immune system perceiving something innocent as a parasite. If a child isn’t exposed to enough allergens at an early age, the hypothesis is that their bodies are less likely to develop tolerances.
“If you have a cat in the household when less than age 1, in infancy, then you are less likely to have asthma at age 5,” he said. “Studies show children who grow up on farms have less asthma, too.”
I had a friend who told that, when her daughter was young, she was sickly and frequently ill.
She asked the doctor what to do and the doctor said, “Let her play in the dirt.”
She did and the illnesses went away.