We all hate germs and many of us spend a lot of time removing any trace of them from our homes, believing that the less germs around us the less chance our children have of becoming sick. We may however be doing more harm than good, leaving our children more prone to illness than they would be in a less sterile environment.
‘good’ germs versus ‘bad’ germs
In layman terms there are two types of germs. ‘Good’ germs which our bodies need to stay healthy and ‘bad’ germs that make us ill. Modern trends have us not only killing the ‘bad’ germs but also killing off any trace of the ‘good’ germs. Everyday bacteria, viruses and fungi are all germs that are needed to enable a child’s immune system to mature.
Without these ‘good’ germs a child’s risk of actually developing an allergic condition such as eczema or asthma are significantly increased. A trend of increasing allergic conditions amongst city children of the western world has become apparent.
Other auto immune conditions are also on the rise such as Type 1 Diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis and inflammatory bowel diseases. In these conditions as with any allergic condition the immune system is attacking something that is not a threat to the body.
Allergies on the increase
Professor Graham Rook of Royal Free and University College in London says, “Allergies have gone from being rare to being something that affects 40 – 50% of kids in some inner cities.”
Rook believes the likelihood of developing these allergy-related conditions is far reduced if children are brought up on a farm or if they have older male siblings.
It would appear that the modern way of life in western societies where there is more air conditioning, poor ventilation and a tendency to indoor lifestyles combined with an obsession to clean away all the ‘good’ germs is resulting in the immune systems of our children not developing as well as they once did. The end result is allergy and allergy related conditions.
How do we overcome this problem?
The answer is not to stop cleaning but rather to revert back to a more natural way of life. Use natural ventilation by opening windows rather than closing your home up and relying on air conditioning. Encourage children to play outside rather than inside. And of course we still need to clean but perhaps we should be a little less obsessive about it.