Lack of cleanliness is often seen as a source of disease. As a parent, this certainly raises concerns. But on the other hand, reportedly children who are too clean are even more vulnerable to illness. Is this true?

This theory is called the hygiene hypothesis and was introduced by Prof. David P. Stratchan in the 1980s. Simply stated, this theory states that the environment of young children can be too clean, so it cannot stimulate the child’s immune system effectively. As a result, the immune system is less able to respond well to attacks from various sources of disease during the maturation of the immune system.

In the immune system, there are various types of immune cells that can increase and develop. Some of these cell types will directly attack the cause of the disease. However, several other types of cells will produce substances (such as antibodies) that cause an immune reaction when dealing with the source of infection.

Photo by Emma Bauso from Pexels
Photo by Emma Bauso from Pexels

During the womb, the fetal immune system does not function properly. It is estimated, the immunity is deliberately ‘suppressed’ so that there is no rejection reaction against the mother’s body tissues. In addition, the fetus also obtained immunity from its mother (in the form of antibodies) during the womb.

But after birth, the body’s immune system needs to recognize various sources of disease so that it can form immunity against harmful infections. If the child’s environment is too clean, it is estimated that the body’s immunity cannot mature properly.

As a result, the body cannot provide an adequate response when the immune system encounters disease-causing germs (such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites) or other triggers from the environment (such as pollen, mold spores, and animal dander).

In the beginning, Prof. Stratchan found that children born in environments with many family members would be more exposed to germs than their older siblings. Therefore, the incidence of allergic rhinitis or hay fever is lower in them.

Furthermore, in the 1990s, another study by Dr. Erika von Mutius obtained similar results. This study found that children who lived in dirtier and less healthy environments (samples taken from children who lived in East Germany at that time), apparently had a lower incidence of asthma and allergies compared to those who lived in clean and healthy environment (a comparison using children who lived in West Germany at that time).

During labor, the baby will be exposed to various types of bacteria found in the birth canal of the mother. After that, breastfeeding can give the baby exposure to various maternal factors, but not exposed to environmental factors. When the breastfeeding period is over, the baby begins to be exposed to various environmental factors, especially considering the baby’s habit of putting anything in his mouth.

Hygiene continues to have many beneficial effects on health. But what might be confusing for parents is what is called “too clean” parameters, which can potentially make children vulnerable to illness.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends regular cleaning and disinfecting of your home. Especially, areas that are exposed to feces (feces), meat, and areas that may be exposed to those who carry the virus (for example, door handles of people who have the flu).

The rest, let your child play freely outside the room, such as the yard and garden while still within safe limits. Although it causes dirty children in the process of playing, it can train the child’s immunity. To keep children healthy, don’t forget to bathe the child after playing outdoors. You can use antibacterial soap to keep your child clean.

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