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Overly Sanitized Environments Lead to Poor Health? 352

Posted by timothy
from the are-you-gonna-finish-that? dept.
bignickel writes "A recently-released study examined the health implications of living in an overly hygienic environment. According to the 'hygiene hypothesis,' living in such an environment early in life can lead to problems with allergies and autoimmune diseases. The study compared lab rodents with rats and mice living in the wild. Time to stop Lysol-bombing the house?"
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Overly Sanitized Environments Lead to Poor Health?

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  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Monday June 19, 2006 @02:02PM (#15563359) Journal
    I'm not a doctor but I couldn't agree with this article more. I grew up picking rock, bailing hay & working with animals. Countless times I'd come home with dust, alfalfa or straw everywhere (eyes, nose, clothes, etc). I worked with a lot of people and every member of the family worked as soon as you were able to lift something. What was odd was that you had entire families and not one of them would have allergies.

    Now, I'm sure there are exceptions but I think that it would be an interesting survey to compare people who work in dirty grimy environments with people who work in corporate America. I spent my childhood running through the weeds, pulling wood ticks out of my hair and watching my mom put iodine all over my cuts & scrapes (hurts like a b*tch). Although by some people's standards I grew up in utter squalor, it was a lot of fun.

    I have two cousins who moved to Minneapolis and grew up in a house with an air filtration system. The tiniest pollen or cat dander will send them into sneezing fits. Those air filtration systems are more harm than good in my opinion.

    To my knowledge, I don't have any allergic reactions or hay fever. Now, this is just my personal experience but when I lived out in the country, I didn't know anyone except my teacher who had hay fever. Once I went to college at age 18, I met tons of people with hay fever. Is this correlation due to the fact that our childhoods were spent in filth or is it simply because people with allergies move away from those areas? I'm not sure but considering that allergies can "develop" later in life, I'm prone to believe that the less you are exposed to tiny particles, the more your body wigs out when your immune system encounters them.

    If you're a parent, I would suggest getting your toddler/infant out to the park as often as possible and let them get some fresh air. Yes, it has smog & pollen in it but everyone has to deal with these their entire lives.

    There's no analogy to be used here, it's just simply speculation. They've done this study with lab mice, now why don't they do a sampling of populations and ask people whether they work in an office with a controlled air system or outdoors/farm work where they're exposed to plants & animals daily.

    The human body is extremely adaptive. Anti-bodies are perfect examples of an immune system being exposed to something and then being able to deal with it later. I speculate that if people aren't exposed to dust, pollen, dander, etc. then their bodies will have a much more difficult time discerning them from actually harmful foreign particles.
    • I'm also not a doctor, but I've heard that the human body can also become aware of an allergen after repeated exposure... poison ivy or cat dander, for example. People who were not allergic to these things can apparently develop an allergy to something that didn't elicit a reaction before.
      • This seems to be the case for me at least when it comes to pollen. Never used to have any allergies at all. Now when June rolls around I find myself sneezing and constantly blowing my nose. At least it wasn't as bad this year but it still sucks. It all started when I moved from one apartment to another and that kicked up a lot of dust. This is my third year of it and I really hope it goes away =P.
        Now to go the other way when I first got poison ivy it was really really bad. Each time after that was not
        • I too had this happen. Though, I noticed that it started becoming problematic around the same time that I went camping a lot less in exchange for my digital habits. I believe it's due to lack of exposure - I've been doing a good bit of biking (i.e., outdoors) in my spare time now, and it's been a lot less problematic this year.
      • This applies to latex allergies as well. Some hospital employees will become allergic to latex while being exposed to it repeatedly in a sterile environment.

        It's just funny. The GPP indicates that a family that works on the farm does not get allergies to many things like dust and pollen, but discounts the idea that genetics influences allergies in the least. IE, if the parents are not allergic to dust and take up a life of farming, then their children are not likely to exhibit such ailments as well.
        • by timcharper (926387) on Monday June 19, 2006 @03:52PM (#15564339)
          Something interesting about allergies is that the tendency to develop allergies is inherited, but which allergies they develop don't appear to be inherited.

          I just did a research paper on the subject recently (within the last yeaar). If you can find it, here's a reference to an article about it:
          "Allergy Myths: Cleaning the Air." Saturday Evening Post 271.4 (1999): 26-28. EBSCOHost. Online. 13 Oct. 2005.
    • by Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) on Monday June 19, 2006 @02:24PM (#15563568) Homepage
      There's no analogy to be used here, it's just simply speculation. They've done this study with lab mice, now why don't they do a sampling of populations and ask people whether they work in an office with a controlled air system or outdoors/farm work where they're exposed to plants & animals daily.

      That information, while useful, would probably be less useful than you might think. Even if you discount the typical problems associated with questionnaire-based studies, such a study will won't distinguish between problems caused by sterile environments and problems caused by different allergens that may be associated with air conditioning systems or with urban areas in general.

    • by Otter (3800) on Monday June 19, 2006 @02:25PM (#15563580) Journal
      Now, I'm sure there are exceptions but I think that it would be an interesting survey to compare people who work in dirty grimy environments with people who work in corporate America.

      IIRC, the original study that popularized this idea compared Germans who grew up in cities and on farms and found a lower rate of allergies in the latter.

      As for this mouse study -- lab mice and wild mice are extremely different animals, as lab mouse strains (which used to be pet mouse strains) as have been selected for two hundred years to grow in close quarters. It's very hard to distinguish environmental and genetic effects in this case.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      While the theory really appeals to me, my life experience indicates otherwise.
      My father grew up in a farming family and, like most, he was expected to pitch in and work from an early age. However, he also has severe allergies to grain dust, pollen and a number of other respiratory related things. These just got worse over the years. When he helps out on the farm now, he actually wears an aspestos removal suit with a breather unit. I grew up in a sterile house - excessive vacuuming and cleaning. While I
    • by hindumagic (232591) on Monday June 19, 2006 @02:35PM (#15563689)
      Like you said, that is your *personal* experience.

      Whereas I grew up just as you did, playing outside, lots of different animals, hay, etc. Not a Lysol environment at all. And then around 10 years old, while making tunnels and forts in a big pile of haybales with friends I got hit with the hayfever. Around the same time I developed an allergy to cats. My father is exactly like this and his father is as well (allergic to cat dander and have hayfever).

      Oh, and you can be born with allergies. I'm allergic to penicillin - given some as a newborn and developed a rash (apparently a common allergic reaction to it).

      I'm sure that there are others that can refute your hypothesis.

      But I still believe that it is good to not grow up in a sterile environment. I'm not thinking about allergies, but just about having an immune system that gets some exercise and building up a catalog of antibodies that can respond to similar threats. (in fact, isn't the allergic reaction your immune system's response to that allergen?)
      • by pilgrim23 (716938) on Monday June 19, 2006 @04:44PM (#15564751)
        I too was raised with bailing wire and hay... and alternating city life. One thing I did observe as a kid was the runts in the litter; they did not live. Dogs Cats Hogs...didn't matter. The pup that had the problems died off and the strong ones grew to adulthood. This "natural selection" seems missing today.. Mankind arrested his own evolution by mandating his enviornment, instead of allowing the environment to influence him. We "washed our hands" of it long ago....
      • Sure it does not erradicate arlegies, and in your case it seems clear that you've got them running on your family. But here it is common sense that children that were raised with animal pets have less alergies then children that had not. Some children doctors do adivise that the over sanitary environments that some mother want is bad, they even have a common joke for this. This doctors would sugest that the child need victamin "S" for "sujeira" witch is dirt in portuguese.
    • by Gulthek (12570) on Monday June 19, 2006 @02:37PM (#15563712) Homepage Journal
      Doesn't quite work as reliably as you think. My wife has bad allergies to cat dander, but grew up surrounded by pets and helped work her mother's pet store.
      • Yeah, I'm much the same. Grew up around cats and dogs, and yet I have developed allergies (along with asthma) to them now that have only gotten worse as I've gotten older. Interestingly, this started around puberty, which seems to be a common theme...
      • I've found that my animal allergies vary from animal to animal (within the same species). My previous cat would sometimes start me sneezing hard. Getting her saliva on me would trigger an especially bad reaction. My current cat however hasn't given me the slightest problem. I know my allergies are still there because they flare up around different cats or at animal shelters.

        I have some doubts about the dirt hypothosis beyond just animal allergies. I also grew up playing in the woods and being outdoors
        • That would be because most people who are allergic to cats are actually allergic to cat saliva and because cats clean themselves by licking, their dander causes allergies by proxy.
    • Predisposition (Score:5, Interesting)

      by xstonedogx (814876) <xstonedogx@gmail.com> on Monday June 19, 2006 @02:55PM (#15563895)
      It could also be that those with allergies tend to move away from the farms. I wouldn't last a week on a farm without some Zyrtec.

      My sister and I grew up in the same environment. We lived in air conditioning, but spent most of our childhood playing outdoors in suburbs of Minneapolis. I have severe pollen-based allergies. If I do not have air conditioning or medication, I can wake up with my eyes glued shut from secretions, my throat can hurt like the worst strep throat you ever had, and my eyes and ears itch constantly. I am also mildly allergic to pretty much every food. My sister has no allergies of any kind.

      My family was on the farm two generations ago, and one generation ago they still worked on the farm during the summer. Some of them have allergies, some don't.

      My daughter's skin has reacted to certain foods since she was a baby.

      So, I think there are probably genetic predispositions to allergies. However, I think there may be a role for environment in those who are less severely predisposed to allergies than the members of my family.

    • by Ryanwoodings (60314) on Monday June 19, 2006 @03:02PM (#15563948) Homepage
      The May (2006) issue of National Geographic has an article titled "The Misery of Allergies", which lends a lot of credibility to your story. The article says scientists aren't sure what causes allergies, but there is evidence that shows that growing up in "dirtier" environments leads to fewer allergies.

      http://www7.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0605/featur e4/index.html [nationalgeographic.com]
    • I'm no scientist but everytime I drop a large heavy object it falls faster than a small light feather. I think the conclusion is obvious.

      "Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen." -- Albert Einstein

    • by norman619 (947520) on Monday June 19, 2006 @04:14PM (#15564497)
      I have a similar experience to yours. I was diagnosed as being allergic to pollen, animal dander, dust of any sort, and so on. My mom protected my brother and I from those things like crazy. When I was in the presence of a cat for example I would have a hard time breathing and my eyes would swell up and water like crazy. But guess what? After my sisters started adopting just about every stray or orphaned animal they found my reactions to them became less and less untill completely gone. At one point our house was like a petting zoo with all kinds of animals we were nursing back to health and/or rasing. The family doctor was very interested in what happened with me. At that time they were conducting a study into the theory of prolanged exposure to allergens can can help lessen or completely remove the allergic reactions. After that my parents started sending me to summer camp and again guess what? After the first 2 summers my allergic reactions to pollen were gone as well. Dust still makes me prey for death but that is the only allergy I haven't been able to shake. So yeah it's my own personal exp but I have spoken with MANY people with similar exp. Now my younger brother was not so lucky. He got the same exposure as I did but his allergies never went away. But they did decline noticably during the zoo period or our lives. But that only lasted until we left home. They have in fact gotten stronger over the years. So who knows. There needs to be more study done on this but I know in my case exposure did seem to cure me of most of my allergies.
  • by Siberwulf (921893) on Monday June 19, 2006 @02:05PM (#15563387)
    If you did, you'd see why I haven't been sick in 15 years.
  • by BHearsum (325814) on Monday June 19, 2006 @02:06PM (#15563389) Homepage
    "In my neighborhood no one ever got polio. No one, ever. You know why? 'Cause we swam in the East River. We swam in raw sewage! It strengthened our immune systems. The polio never had a prayer; we were tempered in raw shit!"
    • "Listen, if you kill all the germs around you and live a completely sterile life, then when germs do come along, you're not gonna be prepared.

      And nevermind ordinary germs, what are you gonna do when some supervirus comes along that turns your vital organs into liquid shit?

      I'll tell you what you're gonna do. You're gonna get sick, you're gonna die, and you're gonna deserve it cause you're fucking weak and you've got fucking weak immune system."

  • At last! (Score:5, Funny)

    by icebrain (944107) on Monday June 19, 2006 @02:10PM (#15563439)
    A good reason to give my fiancee for NOT cleaning my house every weekend... I'll tell her it's good for you!
  • The future (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Red Moose (31712) on Monday June 19, 2006 @02:11PM (#15563445)
    A totally sanitised environment is no problem to be raised in as long you are going to continue living in it forever. Unfortunately, your OCD parents who won't let you play in a mucky garden as a kid won't be your flatmates when you are finding unwashed underclothes can stale booze in college and the real world.

    It will be no problem at all if there are moon colonies. But, as we all know there aren't (although some conspiracy theorists know there are).

    • Re:The future (Score:5, Interesting)

      by x2A (858210) on Monday June 19, 2006 @02:31PM (#15563642)
      "A totally sanitised environment is no problem to be raised in as long you are going to continue living in it forever"

      Untrue. There are more problems with an untrained immune system than just the fact that it won't strengthen. At the low end of the scale are allergies, where you develop an immunoresponse to things that aren't actually dangerous, and have to start avoiding certain foods that you'd otherwise be able to eat. At the other end of the scale are autoimmune problems; where the immune system starts to attack you itself. I recall a case of a guy who's immune system was attacking his own intestines. They countered this by (yeah, I know) giving him *worms*, so that his immune system would turn against them instead, and, being occupied, allow his intestines to heal.

      You immune system also fights many other things other than just outside invaders, such as cancer, which is a lot more common than you might think, but most of the time the immune system can take care of it and so it's not a problem.

      So no, proper immuno development is essential, even if you can live in a sterilised environment all your life.

      • They countered this by (yeah, I know) giving him *worms*...

        I think I speak for everyone here when I say BLEEEEUUhhhh! Ugh! Ew.

        You could never toke up again, total freakout session. Eugh... *shudder*

      • There's a dude on Kuro5hin.org who documents [kuro5hin.org] his travels to Africa to cure his ills with self-inflicted hookworm infestation. While one can never be sure of the truthfulness of this article (at least, I don't know the guy personally), he does cite further reading that supports your thing about the worms.

        Truth is stranger than fiction, sometimes. :)

        • Oh, I forgot to address one point in the grandparent...

          The worm treatment I link to above works due the hookworms supressing the hosts immune system for their own benefit. It isn't the hosts immune system having a bigger fish to fry, as it were (I don't think the immune system really descriminates against pathogens), but rather that the immune system is slightly weakened.

      • Re:The future (Score:5, Informative)

        by Lord Ender (156273) on Monday June 19, 2006 @04:33PM (#15564670) Homepage
        Your friend probably has colitis. This is a disease that is quite common in the Western world, but does not exist at all in the "developing" world. The theory is that if your immune system is never exposed to parasites, it forgets what it is supposed to be attacking and goes after your large intestine. This will cause constant internal bleeding, mucus, and diarrhea. If it gets bad enough, you will die of malnutrition and dehydration. It usually starts happening, right out of nowhere, when you are in your 20s.

        Because nobody likes to talk about digestion, there have been very few studies of colitis or attempts to find cures. People love to raise awareness and money to fight cancer and other disease, but ignore this one because intestine problems are not polite to discuss. It's a damn shame.
    • Re:The future (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Stephen Samuel (106962) <samuel&bcgreen,com> on Monday June 19, 2006 @04:27PM (#15564627) Homepage Journal
      A totally sanitised environment is no problem to be raised in as long you are going to continue living in it forever.

      That may not be true. The worst case is that, if a 'bored' imune system can lead to hypersensitivity, a totally sanitised environment may lead to you getting sensitive to things like skin dust or human hair, or something (anything) in the food you're eating. Your immune system grew up in millions of years of non-sterile envirnment and so a reasonable presumption is that if it's not seeing any pathogens, it's not being dilligent enough -- so it ups the sensitivity until background noise sounds like a signal.

      The first clue that pointed me to the possibility that overly clean environments can lead to immune problems came from the difference between me and my middle sister.. We're pretty close to each other in a lot of ways, and have even managed to be mistaken for identical twins (when wearing heavy winter coats).
      Since we've moved away from home, she's kept an immaculate house -- nothing out of place and incredibly clean.

      I, on the other hand, have almost always had at least one cat and one roommate, clean on a sporadic basis, and once learned (empirically) that at least one species of ant can help eradicate a stubborn flea infestation.

      The result: I have no known alergies, and she suffers from multiple alergies. It doesn't make much sense unless a bored immune system becomes hypersensitive.

  • by eyeball (17206) on Monday June 19, 2006 @02:12PM (#15563459) Journal
    My mother was stricken with Polio in the early 50's, just a few years before the vaccine was approved.

    Although I've never seen any literature that support this, she says Polio was known as a Middle-class disease, since the middle-class were more likely to have cleaner houses (thus not exposing babies to as many germs and developing healthy immune systems). The fact that her mother was a clean-freak before and after my mother was born may be coincidental to her contracting Polio, but I like to think they're related.

    • by lawpoop (604919) on Monday June 19, 2006 @02:59PM (#15563929) Homepage Journal
      I took a class on the history of American medicine, and IIRC, it was pretty well established that polio was an upper-class disease.

      If you are exposed as a child, you are able to fight it off and are pretty much innoculated to it for the rest of your life. Poor people didn't have the cleanest conditions a century ago, and even middle class parents allowed their kids to mingle with the masses, in places like public swimming pools. Polio was pretty much endemic in the population, and it was only the rich kids, who weren't allowed to play with dirty urchins, who contracted the virus later in life and were unable to fight it off.
    • by Surt (22457) on Monday June 19, 2006 @03:17PM (#15564068) Homepage Journal
      A lot of people like to think things are related. That's why we have scientists and statistics. In this particular case, scientists sampling water supplies of the middle/upper classes actually discovered for a fact that polio was less prevalent in the cleaner water supplies of the middle/upper class, and that reduced exposure in early infanthood or through the mother's immune system led to more crippling cases (the greater severity of polio infection after infanthood was also well researched and understood).

      Here are a couple of resources:
      http://www.amphilsoc.org/library/mole/n/nycpolio.x ml [amphilsoc.org]
      http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/rxforsurvival/series/disea ses/polio.html [pbs.org]

      So now you don't just have to like to think they were related, you can just say the link was scientifically proven.
    • Tell that to the people in Norther Nigeria who are having major outbreaks of Polio right now. Hygene is not a big preocupation there. However, the local Immams persuaded people that vaccination was a plot by westerners to eradicate Muslims.
  • by Ransak (548582) on Monday June 19, 2006 @02:15PM (#15563481) Homepage Journal
    Want to prevent all those disinfectants from weakening your immune system?


    There's an easy way! [damninteresting.com]

  • No shit Sherlock (Score:5, Informative)

    by ds_job (896062) on Monday June 19, 2006 @02:17PM (#15563508)
    All I had to do was google for "Eat a peck of dirt" and the sixth on the list is a New Scientist [newscientist.com] page from 1998
    I was very interested in your article on the possible dangers of excessive hygiene ("Let them eat dirt", 18 July, p 26). As a child I remember being told by my mother that "you have to eat a peck of dirt before you die", a peck being two gallons. Is this another case of scientists catching up with what has been common knowledge for generations?

    If you want to fork out for the premium content you can get the full text here. [newscientist.com]
    I'm presuming that in eight years time some other publication will 'discover' this again and maybe someone will link to me instead of Susan Taylor...
    • Unfortunately (Score:3, Insightful)

      Evidence and rational thought have very little impact on people who think things like

      "the only good germ is a dead germ"

      "bright lights deter crime"

      "second hand smoke is dangerous"

      "criminals prefer machine guns"

      in the end, people don't like scary and/or icky things and demand that "something" be done about them, even if "something" makes the problem worse instead of better.
    • Regarding eating a peck of dirt...

      I'll wager that most of us live somewhere that is mostly urban and that most of the dirt we encounter in our daily lives is not at all like the kind of rich organic earth that surround farms.

      Urban dirt is made up of unburnt hydrocarbons, dog poo, cigarette butts, sputum, and bird droppings and it doesn't contain much in the way of nutrients needed to grow plants in.

      While it might help your immune system to eat urban dirt, I can't say I'm surprised that fewer parents in urba
  • by jizziknight (976750) on Monday June 19, 2006 @02:19PM (#15563524)
    This is based mostly on BS, but interesting (at least to me) nonetheless...

    When my mom was pregnant with me, at some point she had a bad case of poison ivy. I rarely ever get poison ivy, and if I do, it's only for a couple days, and is hardly noticable. My older sister on the other hand, is quite allergic to poison ivy, and generally needs medication to control it if she gets it. I've also heard of similar stories, but can't be arsed right now to remember them. Now, we all know that a baby's immune system is related to how good the mother's immune system is. I postulate that if a pregnant woman becomes infected with any sort of non-fatal/non-life-threating disease, bacteria, virus, the baby will, as a result, be more resistant to it, if not totally immune.

    So, instead of isolating pregnant women from everything, I say we start giving them controlled infections of common sicknesses, so that their immune systems produce the atibodies, and pass them on to the baby.

    Of course, I could just be completely insane....
    • So if your mom gets bitten by a radioactive spider, does that make you Spider-Man? I think you're reading too much into this. Plenty of sibling react very differently to allergens and irritants like Poison Ivy despite their mom's exposure to such things.
    • Your theory may hold some merit in some cases, but is 100% wrong in others. Just take a look at the Wikipedia entry for Chickenpox [wikipedia.org] to see how dangerous that disease is if the Mother gets it while she's pregnant: basically the baby can be completely screwed.

      Basically, I wouldn't recommend ANY mother to PURSUE disease while pregnant. It's probably not the end of the world in the vast majority of cases (there are considerable barriers to disease for the unborn child naturally through the placenta, etc), but
    • by Chicken04GTO (957041) on Monday June 19, 2006 @03:12PM (#15564031)
      Im nearly immune to the posion ivy/oaks families too. I can see it on my skin if ive been exposed, but they dont itch or bother me. Ill ask my mom if she was ever exposed to poison Ivy while preggers.

      if your theory is correct, then I wish I could go back in time and surround my mom with stupid people, because I am deathly allergic to them now.
      • I thought it was a common thing, but I am completely immune to all poison ivy/oak/whatever. I have literally sat in the stuff before and didn't get so much as a discoloration.
        • Be careful... (Score:3, Informative)

          by LunaticTippy (872397)
          I don't react to poison whatever either. My brother was the same way for years and years, but eventually developed a sensitivity to it. His doctor said that erratic large exposure to allergens can eventually produce sensitivity.
          So don't seek it out and show off like I did.
      • if your theory is correct, then I wish I could go back in time and surround my mom with stupid people, because I am deathly allergic to them now.

        Though when you think about it, I think it'd be WORSE to not have indications that you are among such. Better to have the detector than not! ;)
    • So, instead of isolating pregnant women from everything, I say we start giving them controlled infections of common sicknesses, so that their immune systems produce the atibodies, and pass them on to the baby.

      Pretty soon there will be shots called immunizations for common illnesses.

      Thats only theory at this time though.

  • agree 100% (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kalinago (978201) on Monday June 19, 2006 @02:19PM (#15563527) Homepage
    I've always had this point of view all my life. I'm latin american so it's very easy to contrast fellows from extreme opposite social backgrounds in any main avenue; from what Ive seen, people that grow up in shanty towns, with no vitamins, poor diets and other problems have by average stronger, agile and toughier body types than more fortunate individuals.

    Kind of odd, but its not uncommon to read news about a young high profile kid die from an asthma fit. On the other side another one survives from four shots and a head crash in a hold up in some poor neighborhood.

    I guess this is called survival of the fittest.
    • Re:agree 100% (Score:2, Flamebait)

      by chris_eineke (634570)
      Kind of odd, but its not uncommon to read news about a young high profile kid die from an asthma fit.
      No shit, Sherlock. How many high-profile "shanty town man was killed by asthma fit" cases have you read about in the New York Timer or seen on FOXnews? Huh?

      None?

      Thought so. d:
  • Clean room (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tsa (15680) on Monday June 19, 2006 @02:23PM (#15563559) Homepage
    I often work inside a clean room, and once I saw a colleague of mine have a severe hay fever attack in there. Tears streamed from his eyes etc. He had to sit down for a while to recover. He told me it's the change of environment (in this case from dirty to clean air) that did it for him. Very strange.
  • by Cobratek (14456) on Monday June 19, 2006 @02:27PM (#15563601) Homepage
    Ever notice little kids who eat dirt are healthier looking and tend to be not as scrawny as the kids with clean-freaks for parents. Ever see a toddler allowed to play outside that didnt eat dirt ? They need the bacteria for their digestive system.
  • fluoridate (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 19, 2006 @02:27PM (#15563602)
    Do you realize that in addition to fluoridating water, why, there are studies underway to fluoridate salt, flour, fruit juices, soup, sugar, milk, ice cream? Ice cream, Mandrake? Children's ice cream!...You know when fluoridation began?...1946. 1946, Mandrake. How does that coincide with your post-war Commie conspiracy, huh? It's incredibly obvious, isn't it? A foreign substance is introduced into our precious bodily fluids without the knowledge of the individual, and certainly without any choice. That's the way your hard-core Commie works.
    • Re:fluoridate (Score:2, Interesting)

      by x2A (858210)
      Floride replaces iodine in the thyroid, upsetting the metabolism, causing weight gain and lethargy.

      • Re:fluoridate (Score:3, Interesting)

        by rossifer (581396)

        Floride replaces iodine in the thyroid, upsetting the metabolism, causing weight gain and lethargy.

        I checked on your assertion and several reputable sources agree with you (i.e. outside of the anti-flouride crowd).

        Since flouride in food and water is almost inescapable nowadays, can the effect from flouride be overcome with higher levels of iodine in your diet or through supplements? I've heard of anti-radiation supplements that provided superdoses of iodine so that radioactive iodine from fallout wouldn't

    • Nice quote. I just watched that movie for the first time last night. :)
  • http://www7.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0605/featur e4/index.html [nationalgeographic.com]

    The article is about allergies in specific, but is very relavant. A few researchers are claiming that because our environments are so sterile as children these days, more adults have allergies (and illness) as a result of not being exposed to certain elements (good or bad organisms, etc) as a child. Compelling read, I highly recommend it.

    -Ponga
    • The article is about allergies in specific, but is very relavant. A few researchers are claiming that because our environments are so sterile as children these days, more adults have allergies (and illness) as a result of not being exposed to certain elements (good or bad organisms, etc) as a child. Compelling read, I highly recommend it.

      There is a difficulty with proving the theory that cleaner houses in your youth make you more suspectible to develop allergies later in your life. Fact is that there is

    • by Old Man Kensey (5209) on Monday June 19, 2006 @04:09PM (#15564458) Homepage
      This makes a lot of sense to me, for intuitive, anecdotal and logical reasons:

      Intuitive: I figure your immune system is like anything else in your body -- if it doesn't get a regular workout it becomes less efficient and when you stress it, it may behave unpredictably.

      Anecdotal: I grew up playing outside a lot. My favorite thing to do was hydraulic engineering on mud-puddles. I built dams, canals, locks with gates, stirred up mud to see how it behaved, etc. I was out in the woods a fair bit, got the occasional tick (this was before Lyme disease was such a concern, and as long as you caught the ticks the same day, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever was nothing to worry about). We had cats, our relatives had dogs, etc. To this day I have relatively little issue with allergies or illnesses of any kind. Yes, dust makes me sneeze, but it honestly puzzles me why people stampede to get flu shots every year -- I've had the flu maybe twice in my life, it sucked, it lasted about three days each time, and I got over it. People look at me like I'm nuts -- "You're not getting a flu shot? WHY NOT???"

      On the other hand, just about all the people I know with allergies, constant colds, etc. are the ones with a horror of anything that might be less than perfectly fresh and germ-free. I drink milk that's a few days past the sell-by, I eat stuff that's been in the fridge a couple days, I have lunch at greasy spoons where the kitchen staff maybe doesn't wash their hands every time they touch their own face. I don't go out of my way to find "dangerous" food or items, but neither do I avoid things that may have tiny amounts of "harmful" stuff on them like my life is at risk every time I eat a sandwich.

      Logical: I won't use antibacterial soaps unless there's no alternative. Why? Because using them indiscriminately breeds resistant bacteria. This is just logic backed up by known scientific observation of microbial evolution. It's the reason your doctor won't (or at least, shouldn't) prescribe you antibiotics every time you have a fever -- if it's not bacterial, the drugs wouldn't do you any good and would breed resistance in bacteria that aren't causing you any issues yet. Then those resistant strains would take over and now you have a problem, and it's a tough problem because the doctor has to give you massive doses, or use a different antibiotic -- and there are only so many antibiotics out there. Trying to sterilize the environment is the same thing on a grander scale.

      If more parents let their kids go ahead and, for example, chew on the cat's tail, the kid's immune system would get exposed to a few new agents (and learn to deal with them), and the cat would swat the kid who would then learn "don't chew on kitty, it hurts". That's two problems solved. Don't let them play in raw sewage, but don't keep them in a plastic bubble either.

  • Vaccine (Score:2, Insightful)

    by layer3switch (783864)
    The wild rodents also showed as much as four times higher levels of immunoglobulins related to allergy and autoimmune disease, but didn't get sick.

    Isn't this what we call "Vaccine"? The entire study is somewhat misleading. If I wanted to live allergy free, I rather wear a mask or something, not roll around dirt all day in hopes of my immune system picking up where it left off 4000 years ago before the invention of soap.
    • You don't have to roll around in dirt, you just have to not go all-out-war on cleaning things. Girms will grow and spread on their own, and reach you in normal moderate amounts.

    • Then I feel sorry for you. If you intend to wear a mask all your life to stay healthy, then your immune system becomes useless, and, should you mask fall off accidentall *gasp*, you'll be so affected by the first thing that comes by you could die from it.
      Sorry, but the human body is adaptive, we're supposed to expose our bodies to all sorts of threats that are non-damaging. Sort of like vaccines, but it's a passive way of doing it. Vaccines only work for bacteria and virii anyway.
      And exposing yourself to pa
    • Pitiful.

      No, it's not called a vaccine. It's called training your immune system to distinguish between real pathogens and self.

      Here's a hint:
      1. Asthma is an immune disorder. Asthma attacks are triggered by the body over-reacting to outside stimuli.
      2. People widely claim that asthma is caused by pollution and point to the high incidence of asthma in the USA as proof.
      3. Yet, strangely, children in even more highly polluted countries - like Mexico - do not get asthma as often as American children
      • Asthma is an immune disorder. Asthma attacks are triggered by the body over-reacting to outside stimuli.

        Asthma is not an "immune disorder", though immune responses (including allergies) are common asthma triggers that exacerbate inflammation. Asthma "inducers" that produce spasms (a different kind of asthma attack) are environmental, but generally not related to immune response.

        People widely claim that asthma is caused by pollution and point to the high incidence of asthma in the USA as proof.

        That I've seen

    • The point is that you should probably let your kids roll around in the dirt (and join them occasionally) rather than disinfecting them half-hourly. That way they won't NEED to wear the mask.
  • by ribuck (943217) on Monday June 19, 2006 @02:36PM (#15563701) Homepage
    As I understand it, the immune-strengthening effect doesn't come from exposure to high concentrations of pathogens, but from ongoing low-level exposure: playing in the sandpit, swimming in the river, that kind of thing.
  • by Zephyros (966835) on Monday June 19, 2006 @02:43PM (#15563761)
    ...I have a personal counterpoint to some of them. I grew up doing a lot of the typical outside kid things, but still ended up with some pretty bad allergies to grass and other pollens. That doesn't mean I don't agree with the article - I think it's fairly intuitive that a too-clean environment results in a weaker immune system. Just saying that the reverse isn't guaranteed.
  • Time to stop Lysol-bombing the house?
    WTF is Lysol? And WTF is a house?
  • by milkman_matt (593465) on Monday June 19, 2006 @02:56PM (#15563909)
    Reminds me of the Carlin bit:

    "The Hudson River was loaded with raw sewage. That's right, we swam in raw sewage. You know, to cool off. And back then the big fear was polio. Thousands of kids every year were dying of polio. But you know what, in my neighborhood, nobody ever got polio. No one. Ever. You know why? BECAUSE WE SWAM IN RAW SEWAGE. It strengthened our immune system. The polio never had a chance. We were tempered in raw shit.

    What are you going to do when some super virus comes along that turns your vital organs into liquid shit? I'll tell you what you're gonna do. You're gonna get sick and you're gonna die and you're gonna deserve it because you're fuckin' weak and you have a fuckin' weak immune system."
  • Deliberately infecting one self with hookworms has been shown to prevent allergy and auto-immume reactions.

    See fx http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/3287733.stm [bbc.co.uk]
  • There is a study at http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/464830 [medscape.com] on the topic of having pets about babies and if it affects them. In this study it was found that having a couple pets about a baby helped decrease the chance of the child being allergic to that pet later in life.

    More to back up the "That which does not kill me only makes me stronger" theory.
  • To think that I've had the 5 second rule backwards all these years... Note to self: let food sit on the floor for more than 5 seconds before picking it up.
  • by aapold (753705) on Monday June 19, 2006 @03:15PM (#15564055) Homepage Journal
    Since their users haven't had to develop antivirus instincts, are they more susceptable to a catastrophic plague in the future?
    • Yes. (Score:3, Insightful)

      And you're not the first one to notice that. There's a significant concern that because Mac users aren't in the habit of virus paranoia that they are setting themselves up for a very, very big fall.

  • I disagree (Score:4, Interesting)

    by guinsu (198732) on Monday June 19, 2006 @03:18PM (#15564081)
    I cna't say I agree with this article. I grew up in a mid atlantic state in the 80s. Our house had no a/c, so I was exposed to dust and pollen from the outdoors year round, plus I was outside playing a lot. Mom was a pretty busy person, so things like dusting and vacuuming weren't as regular as they were in other people's houses. I've been stuffed up my whole life and this past year I was tested for allergies, it turns out I am allergic to dust, mold, and various tree pollens. Basically 3 things I have been exposed to my entire life.
    • Re:I disagree (Score:2, Insightful)

      by shenanigans (742403)
      The article doesn't say that exposing you to allergens will guarantee that you do not become allergic. It says that NO exposure WILL make you allergic (or at least increase the probability.) The one does not imply the other. I believe studies have also shown that overexposure to allergens can make you allergic as well.

      Damned if you do...
  • Sounds like 'War of the Worlds' had one thing to teach us in this regards.
  • Too much of a good thing will always be a bad thing. Just like how a little bit of dark chocolate is good for the heart, a lot is hardly good for the gut. You can't have it go both ways though. Personally, I'd rather Lysol bomb the house than share it with disease carrying bacteria.

    I used to always spend all of my time outside, but then I grew up, and now I find myself in a cubicle all of the time. Apparently playing outside from the time I was 2 till probably late middle school years did nothing to
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Monday June 19, 2006 @03:35PM (#15564207)
    Ever been to a geek's home? Or seen his workspace?

    WE knew this all along! That's why we stay healthy during times when about half the company is sick. Like, say, during a football world championship.
    • by phorm (591458)
      I thought it was because the green-filled coffeecups and general geeky bo malaise tended to keep the co-workers (sick and healthy alike) out of virus transmission range... somewhat like a personal quarantine :-)
  • I can't find the link right now but I read a summary of a study just a few weeks back around the use of hand sanitizers, soap, etc. They placed samples of a common stomach virus on the hands of test subjects then had them wash with either a hand sanitizer, soap, or just plain tap water. The hand santizier actually proved worst and plain tap water was best. The sanitizer got rid of only about 1/2 of the virus but the plain tap water got rid of something like 90%.
  • Day Cares (Score:3, Insightful)

    by garver (30881) on Monday June 19, 2006 @03:46PM (#15564288)
    My wife is 9 months pregnant, due to pop any day now. This is our first, so we've been shopping for day care centers. It seems all they want to tell us about is how everything is desanitized constantly. Shoes are not worn into the rooms. Hands are washed immediately after entering the room. Surfaces are sprayed down every few minutes. Each toy is desanitized immediately after a kid puts it down.

    I came out of the first tour and said to my wife, "it was great and the only concern I have is that it's too damn clean. My boy's going to need some dirt and filth." Not only are they hampering the kids' natural defenses, but they're also evolving the next uber-germ.
  • by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Monday June 19, 2006 @04:23PM (#15564588) Homepage Journal
    You'll have a much harder time even dealing with being sick. I used to clean house for a student optometrist with two kids. She made her kids change clothes four or five times a day, wash the second they even got dirty, and I swear they must've taken four or five baths a day. We were only allowed to use Lysol, Pine Sol, Alcohol, and Acetone for cleaning around her house. She wanted it "STERILE." I told her her kids would grow up having problems. Guess what? The elest isn't even 5 years old now, and he's got practically NO immune system - he's stuck in a bubble now, most likely due to her insisting upon everything being 100% sterile.

Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig. -- Lazarus Long, "Time Enough for Love"

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