Step away from the hand sanitizer: Cleaner lifestyles lead to more allergies

Filed under: Places To Go, Health & Safety: Babies

My older son has terrible seasonal allergies. In fact, his allergies know no season -- or rather, they span the seasons. To some extent, this is an offshoot of other health issues, but it is entirely possible that his constant sneezing is related to the culture of clean.

Pediatricians at the University of Michigan are researching what they call the "hygiene hypothesis," which is the theory that our cleaner lifestyle -- one that includes antibacterial everything -- is leaving kids with more allergies. According to pediatric allergist Marc McMorris, "We've developed a cleanlier lifestyle, and our bodies no longer need to fight germs as much as they did in the past. As a result, the immune system has shifted away from fighting infection to developing more allergic tendencies."

McMorris also points to smaller families as a contributing factor to the rise in pediatric allergies. Kids with fewer siblings are exposed to a smaller group of germs, which can weaken their immune systems.

So what can you do? McMorris says that in the end, the secret is to let your kids be kids. Let them play in the dirt and touch stuff in the yard and -- gasp! -- come into contact with germs. It will make them healthier in the long run.

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.