ôô

Why are Allergies Getting Worse?

Evidence suggests that our obsession with avoiding all germs is extreme. House Call Doctor explores the hygiene hypothesis.

By
House Call Doctor
1-minute read

Scientific data supports the fact that more people are having allergies, and these levels are increasing over time. In a world where we are more clean and sterile, where we are exposed to less serious disease than ever in human history, are our immune systems getting confused and attacking things that aren’t even a threat?

One of the most popular theories as to why allergies are on the rise is the hygiene hypothesis, which suggests that the relative sterility of our environment is causing worse allergies. It seems that we are not keeping our immune systems busy enough and so they are inventing things to do, such as atatcking our own bodies. Evidence supporting this theory includes:

  • Immigrants from developing countries see a sharp rise in allergies when coming to industrialized countries.

  • Children in larger families have less allergies than do only children.

  • People with certain parasitic infections have a much lower rate of allergies and asthma. (A very interesting episode of This American Life describes a man who was cured of severe allergies by getting a hookworm infection on purpose!)

So am I suggesting that we should imitate that gross guy at work who doesn’t believe in hygiene? No, but I am suggesting that perhaps our obsession with avoiding all germs is extreme and is actually, at least partially, to blame for our overacting immune systems.
 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Medical Disclaimer
Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only. This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider. Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.

About the Author

House Call Doctor
The Quick and Dirty Tips Privacy Notice has been updated to explain how we use cookies, which you accept by continuing to use this website. To exercise your choices about cookies, please see Cookies and Online Tracking.