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A Theory about Allergies: Are We Too Sanitized?

The Hygiene Hypothesis is that we are too clean and that's leading to more allergies and asthma. The advice: Send kids outdoors and get them a pet. (Brad Robinson)
The Hygiene Hypothesis is that we are too clean and that's leading to more allergies and asthma. The advice: Send kids outdoors and get them a pet. (Brad Robinson)
April 5, 2016

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. - All the runny noses and itchy eyes tell us it's allergy season in Missouri.

From April to June, grass pollen causes problems for many; then come fall, it will be ragweed and other plants shredding pollen that cause misery.

If it seems like more people have allergies than ever, that is indeed the case.

Dr. Bill Miller is an author and blogger of "The Microcosm Within;" he studies the causes of allergies.

He says one problem is, many Americans are too clean; researchers call it the "Hygiene Hypothesis."

Miller says we've upset the balance of internal germs in our bodies by protecting ourselves more than our ancestors did.

"They had the cows and the goats, and all the pigs and everything," he says. "The family unit lived right on top of the farm animals. Kids used to roll in the dirt. Kids spent almost all their day outside. Now, in our modern society, we live indoors."

The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology cites research that suggests early antibiotic use changes the bacterial flora, which impacts the development of allergic diseases like asthma.

Other studies suggest we may be using too many products like acetaminophen to treat children.

Miller says we need to back away a little from use of hand sanitizers and antibiotics.

"Are antibiotics the problem? No, they're wonder drugs," he says. "They're one of the greatest inventions in all of world history - but we're using them so commonly that we're having unintended side effects."

Miller says we're upsetting the natural balance in our bodies.

He says doctors need to stand their ground and not give out prescriptions so easily.

"I was taught to use antibiotics when you should," Miller says. "But, that said, as a front-line physician I can tell you that there's a lot of pressure on doctors to offer antibiotics to patients or parents for their young children, because there's such a profound belief that they do the trick."

Miller believes kids should play with other kids, and should have pets early in life, because these types of exposure to other germs can help them avoid allergies later in life.



Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MO