Are We Overusing Antibiotics and Antibacterial Products?
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In addition, some scientists believe that an environment that is "too clean" can have other negative effects on the growing child. According to these researchers, not only will a child raised in such an environment not be able to fight off harmful diseases, he'll also develop allergies to things that aren't normally harmful. Dubbed the hygiene hypothesis, this theory seems to be backed up by recent research. For instance, in several studies highlighted by a PBS news report, children who spent a significant amount of time on farms with cattle and in stables were less likely to have allergies than kids who hadn't had much exposure to livestock. In another study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, children who encountered larger amounts of endotoxins (toxic substances released when bacteria die) in their mattresses and households were less likely to have allergies than children with only a small amount of endotoxins in their environment.
Scientists aren't suggesting that you should stop keeping a clean house, or that you should take your child for a swim in the nearest dirty pond. All that these scientists are recommending is that parents relax a bit when it comes to protecting their children from germs. You should still teach your kids to practice good hygiene, but don't use products containing antibacterial substances. Don't be afraid to send your child to daycare because he might catch a cold. It's normal, and quite possibly beneficial, for kids to encounter all sorts of little microbes in their day-to-day lives. Let them have some fun, and don't panic when they come home a bit dirty.