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Kids' immune systems aren't affected by being too hygienic, study finds

Being too clean isn’t likely to have a poor impact on kids’ health

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A new study conducted by researchers from University College London explored how consumers’ hygiene habits impact kids’ immune systems

Though many people believe that being too clean can do a disservice to kids’ immune systems because it doesn’t expose them to enough bacteria, the researchers explained that this isn’t the case. They say it’s important for consumers to maintain good hygiene in their homes, and it doesn’t come at the expense of children’s health

“Exposure to microorganisms in early life is essential for the ‘education’ of the immune and metabolic systems,” said researcher Graham Rook. “In this paper, we set out to reconcile the apparent need for cleaning and hygiene to keep us free of pathogens, and the need for microbial inputs to populate our guts and set up our immune and metabolic systems.” 

Maintaining good hygiene

The researchers evaluated several recent papers that explored how cleaning and hygiene affected kids’ immune systems. They ultimately determined that cleaning products and maintaining hygiene weren’t a detriment to kids’ health, and they identified a few reasons why. 

They explained that the widespread distribution of vaccines helps to boost the immune system regardless of what microorganisms consumers are exposed to. They also noted that cleaning products may impact consumers’ health, but it isn’t necessarily because bacteria are removed from the home. Instead, the chemicals in the cleaning products themselves can be detrimental to allergies and respiratory health. 

Ultimately, the researchers say maintaining proper hygiene around the home is important for immune system function, and consumers shouldn’t change up their cleaning routines due to worry or fear. 

“Exposure to our mothers, family members, the natural environment, and vaccines can provide all the microbial inputs that we need,” said Rook. “These exposures are not in conflict with intelligently targeted hygiene or cleaning.” 

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