hygiene hypothesis

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GloriaInTX's picture
Joined: 07/29/08
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hygiene hypothesis

These new studies are showing kids who are more wealthy or live in cities are more likely to have food allergies.
Some are saying it is because of this "hygiene hypothesis" which is basically that since kids aren't exposed to as many germs their immune systems don't develop as well. Do you think this has any basis or do you think other factors are skewing the results of these studies?

Early Bacteria Exposure Important for Shaping Immunity | Autoimmune diseases | Hygiene Hypothesis | Asthma, Allergy & Colitis | MyHealthNewsDaily.com

Peanut allergies more common in kids from wealthy families | Fox News

Food Allergies More Common in City Youngsters Than in Country Kids | Children's Health | Allergies | MyHealthNewsDaily.com

Joined: 08/17/04
Posts: 2226

I don't know how true it is but it's been a thought that I've had for awhile and have read a few arguments on it.

It would make sense.

smsturner's picture
Joined: 05/11/09
Posts: 1303

This is totally interesting to me... It does make sense, but I hadn't heard anything about it yet. Thanks for posting.

ClairesMommy's picture
Joined: 08/15/06
Posts: 2299

I've heard about this stuff for a few years - floating around on our national news and such. Yeah, makes total sense to me. I come from a long line of non-asthmatics, married a guy with no asthmatics in his family, but then have a son with asthma.

I don't know if it's a wealthy phenomenon or not, but yeah I think definitely the middle class and up, through education and media etc. have been frightened into chronic hand washing, hand sanitizers, sterilization at home, refusing to expose their kids to common viruses etc. In public or high school I didn't know a single kid through all those years allergic to peanuts or shellfish or eggs or milk. Not one. Now a freaking generational explosion of auto immune disorders. I definitely think there's a strong correlation.

eta - I still am a big advocate of hand sanitizer after getting off public transit. That's a whole other germ pool. Wink

wlillie's picture
Joined: 09/17/07
Posts: 1796

I think you add in not having enough exercise and the amount of crap the kids are eating also weakens their immune system.

ClairesMommy's picture
Joined: 08/15/06
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"wlillie" wrote:

I think you add in not having enough exercise and the amount of crap the kids are eating also weakens their immune system.

Yep. Totally agree. Refined sugar, growth hormone injected beef, etc. combined with hours of inactivity can't be good for the immune system.

wlillie's picture
Joined: 09/17/07
Posts: 1796

"ClairesMommy" wrote:

Yep. Totally agree. Refined sugar, growth hormone injected beef, etc. combined with hours of inactivity can't be good for the immune system.

And country kids aren't breathing in as much pollution, probably get better sleep, and their parents are usually (generalizing) more likely to allow the child to do things city kids can't/shouldn't.

Joined: 08/17/04
Posts: 2226

Another theory I've read about and it reminded me with this post...is the ability to save preemies and sickly babies. I, of course, applaud all the things we can do now to make sure our babies survive even micropreemies but they are also a pool of babies and children that have lifelong health issues, allergies and asthma included, that can also increase the numbers. Back when our parents were kids these kids wouldn't have survived.

fuchsiasky's picture
Joined: 11/16/07
Posts: 955

"ClairesMommy" wrote:

Yep. Totally agree. Refined sugar, growth hormone injected beef, etc. combined with hours of inactivity can't be good for the immune system.

When our parents were growing up food was made with food, not food additives. Chicken soup had chicken, water, noodles, veggies and spices. There wasn't any msg, colour or 16 letter food additives. I think that may have a lot to do with it.

I agree with the theories on dirt too. I don't buy hand sanitizer. We are meant to encounter dirt, germs, illness etc. That is why we have an immune system. We need to be able to use it. If their are no germs anywhere, what does our immune system go after? Random things like pollen and peanut.

fuchsiasky's picture
Joined: 11/16/07
Posts: 955

"Jessica80" wrote:

Another theory I've read about and it reminded me with this post...is the ability to save preemies and sickly babies. I, of course, applaud all the things we can do now to make sure our babies survive even micropreemies but they are also a pool of babies and children that have lifelong health issues, allergies and asthma included, that can also increase the numbers. Back when are parents were kids these kids wouldn't have survived.

This makes a lot of sense too.

Alissa_Sal's picture
Joined: 06/29/06
Posts: 6427

"fuchsiasky" wrote:

When our parents were growing up food was made with food, not food additives. Chicken soup had chicken, water, noodles, veggies and spices. There wasn't any msg, colour or 16 letter food additives. I think that may have a lot to do with it.

I agree with the theories on dirt too. I don't buy hand sanitizer. We are meant to encounter dirt, germs, illness etc. That is why we have an immune system. We need to be able to use it. If their are no germs anywhere, what does our immune system go after? Random things like pollen and peanut.

I agree.

I also do not do hand sanitizer or special anti-bacterial soaps. We have a dog (supposedly kids that are exposed to pets are less likely to develop dander allergies.) We don't, like, make a point of getting filthy or anything, but I don't worry a ton about germs. So far no allergies, but we only have one and he's only 4, so we'll see....

mom3girls's picture
Joined: 01/09/07
Posts: 1535

I think this theory is right on, along with the other things Lisa and Jessica have brought up.

It is very anecdotal but I can usually guess which kids in my classes will have allergies and they are also the ones that refuse to get dirty. I have seen parents that make their kids wash their hands on the way into class, on the way out and then the moms carry sanitizer in their purse.

I also think though that it has a lot to do with over use of antibiotics. And this will probably get flamed, but also vaccines. A good friends DD has to see a pulmonary doctor on a regular basis, and he mentioned that every time a new vaccine comes out he sees a marked increase in kids with asthma

Joined: 11/28/06
Posts: 848

I think that asthma tends to be overdiagnosed in wealthier families and underdiagnosed in poorer families. Why? Families with money and good insurance are more likely to take their children to the doctor (sometimes too often). And unfortunately a Momma with a Coach purse and fashionable outfit seems more credible than a Momma with stained clothes and tennis shoes with holes.

Joined: 03/08/03
Posts: 3187

I think ALL of this makes sense. I also agree about the economic issue, but it might not be so much about credibility necessarily as just being more proactive about preventive health, understanding that something might be a chronic condition, etc.

But we also skip the hand sanitizer and all the excessive freaking out about germs.

Of course sometimes these allergies do just happen, and I think thinks like lactose intolerance just get recognized more but were often an issue before now. But all of these things everyone has mentioned contribute.

AlyssaEimers's picture
Joined: 08/22/06
Posts: 6560

Interesting theories. I would love to know the cause of Asthma. I grew up in NY and never had Asthma. No signs of it, never and problems breathing. Moved to TN and a few years later developed Asthma. I am more inclined to believe it is because I started to gain weight as an adult, but I am not sure. There were a lot of other changes that could have been the cause. Moving from the country to the city being one of them.

Joined: 05/23/12
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"AlyssaEimers" wrote:

Interesting theories. I would love to know the cause of Asthma. I grew up in NY and never had Asthma. No signs of it, never and problems breathing. Moved to TN and a few years later developed Asthma. I am more inclined to believe it is because I started to gain weight as an adult, but I am not sure. There were a lot of other changes that could have been the cause. Moving from the country to the city being one of them.

When I moved to a new area, I also developed a lot of allergies I didn't have before. I actually didn't have any issues until I moved to a new area. Then I was constantly sick with bronchitis from the smallest thing, like just going outside or in traffic. It was so irritating and dreaded just opening the windows. The air pollutants were way too much for me somehow. Then we moved again, and the allergies continued. They seem to cause wheezing, coughing, and bronchial spasms that worsen in colder air and exposure to anything. I'm crazy allergic to bleach for some reason. After someone cleans something with bleach my lungs close up and I get very sick. I'm horribly allergic to cigarette smoke, even third hand smoke like on clothes or remnants in the air. Often I have to use an inhaler. It's getting more often that I have to use a nebulizer AND an inhaler together. Over the years it's worsened quite a lot and in all of my pregnancies I have a couple of months at the beginning where I have difficulty breathing and then towards the end it's horrible. Last pregnancy I was in serious condition. I was using the inhaler combined with the nebulizer around the clock. This pregnancy I bought a pulse ox meter and hope everything stays ok.

ETA, asthma attacks can be caused by moving to new areas with different allergens. There are different triggers for different people. Sometimes people can have asthma LIKE symptoms and not have full asthma. Have you had a PFT, Pulmonary Lung Fuction Test?

I wanted to include this too in case it can help you:

http://www.uptodate.com/contents/trigger-avoidance-in-asthma-beyond-the-basics

ClairesMommy's picture
Joined: 08/15/06
Posts: 2299

Asthma is, or at least can start out as, a very vague, dismissible, puzzling collection of symptoms. I don't know why Ben got asthma. Maybe it had something to do with the fluid trapped in his lungs for the first week - under the oxy hood and then the isolete. IDK. Maybe it had something to do with immunity he got from me while bfing. As soon as he was weaned at a year all his problems started. For him the trigger is respiratory viruses. He could never just have a cough - it always turned into pneumonia or bronchitis or tonsillitis and his oxygen levels would drop with wheezing and really intense in-drawing. The most recent thing was RSV last January which triggered his airways to slam shut. Oxygen levels in the 70s is very very bad and he was in the hospital for 4 days. So, at least for our family, flu shots and vaccines are important, especially the ones that prevent respiratory issues. I wish there was a vaccine for RSV. Sad

AlyssaEimers's picture
Joined: 08/22/06
Posts: 6560

"myyams" wrote:

When I moved to a new area, I also developed a lot of allergies I didn't have before. I actually didn't have any issues until I moved to a new area. Then I was constantly sick with bronchitis from the smallest thing, like just going outside or in traffic. It was so irritating and dreaded just opening the windows. The air pollutants were way too much for me somehow. Then we moved again, and the allergies continued. They seem to cause wheezing, coughing, and bronchial spasms that worsen in colder air and exposure to anything. I'm crazy allergic to bleach for some reason. After someone cleans something with bleach my lungs close up and I get very sick. I'm horribly allergic to cigarette smoke, even third hand smoke like on clothes or remnants in the air. Often I have to use an inhaler. It's getting more often that I have to use a nebulizer AND an inhaler together. Over the years it's worsened quite a lot and in all of my pregnancies I have a couple of months at the beginning where I have difficulty breathing and then towards the end it's horrible. Last pregnancy I was in serious condition. I was using the inhaler combined with the nebulizer around the clock. This pregnancy I bought a pulse ox meter and hope everything stays ok.

ETA, asthma attacks can be caused by moving to new areas with different allergens. There are different triggers for different people. Sometimes people can have asthma LIKE symptoms and not have full asthma. Have you had a PFT, Pulmonary Lung Fuction Test?

I wanted to include this too in case it can help you:

Trigger avoidance in asthma

Thank you. I have been to a specialist where they diagnosed me and gave me medicine.

"ClairesMommy" wrote:

Asthma is, or at least can start out as, a very vague, dismissible, puzzling collection of symptoms. I don't know why Ben got asthma. Maybe it had something to do with the fluid trapped in his lungs for the first week - under the oxy hood and then the isolete. IDK. Maybe it had something to do with immunity he got from me while bfing. As soon as he was weaned at a year all his problems started. For him the trigger is respiratory viruses. He could never just have a cough - it always turned into pneumonia or bronchitis or tonsillitis and his oxygen levels would drop with wheezing and really intense in-drawing. The most recent thing was RSV last January which triggered his airways to slam shut. Oxygen levels in the 70s is very very bad and he was in the hospital for 4 days. So, at least for our family, flu shots and vaccines are important, especially the ones that prevent respiratory issues. I wish there was a vaccine for RSV. Sad

Aww, sorry for all that your little family has gone through. Have you looked into the Synagis shots? When Caitlyn was a baby she got them because she was a preemie. I know it is not technically a vaccine, but she never got RSV even though her older sisters did.

Joined: 05/23/12
Posts: 680

"ClairesMommy" wrote:

Asthma is, or at least can start out as, a very vague, dismissible, puzzling collection of symptoms. I don't know why Ben got asthma. Maybe it had something to do with the fluid trapped in his lungs for the first week - under the oxy hood and then the isolete. IDK. Maybe it had something to do with immunity he got from me while bfing. As soon as he was weaned at a year all his problems started. For him the trigger is respiratory viruses. He could never just have a cough - it always turned into pneumonia or bronchitis or tonsillitis and his oxygen levels would drop with wheezing and really intense in-drawing. The most recent thing was RSV last January which triggered his airways to slam shut. Oxygen levels in the 70s is very very bad and he was in the hospital for 4 days. So, at least for our family, flu shots and vaccines are important, especially the ones that prevent respiratory issues. I wish there was a vaccine for RSV. Sad

Poor little guy...

You need to buy him a pulse ox meter to monitor his oxygen saturation levels. I am not sure if the adult size will work correctly for kids. I've tried mine on my kids and it seemed fine, right in line with what mine were at that time. I think I paid $40 for mine. The only thing is that it tells how much oxygen saturation is in the blood but not how effectively it's being distributed. But, still oxy sat is important.

It is puzzling. Some people have issues from birth and some develop them later in life. I was very exposed as a kid to all sorts of everythings. So the hygiene theory doesn't really work out in my case. I get sick a lot and that is just how it is. My kids are very exposed to all sorts of things but they do get sick a lot. My oldest is more prone to getting sick than the others. Usually he is the one who starts everything. We're not germaphobes or ultra hygienic. My husband brings home lots of germs from work. IDK.

I think there are multiple factors and not one or two things creating this causation.

ClairesMommy's picture
Joined: 08/15/06
Posts: 2299

The number one lesson I've learned since all these things started happening with Ben is to fight like hell, don't let yourself get pushed around by doctors, and never ever doubt yourself. As soon as I grew a backbone and knew I wasn't crazy I started getting answers about what was wrong with my son.

myyams, what is your name?

I know there definitely have been times I wished I had the pulse-ox meter at home, but I wonder if it would drive me mental? Would I be plugging him in every time he got a cough or sounded rattly in his chest? It definitely would give peace of mind though. I remember being so scared to take him home after the RSV in January. I could see his oxygen numbers on the monitor and I was afraid that he'd start crashing again but that I wouldn't know because he wasn't being monitored at home.

Joined: 05/23/12
Posts: 680

"ClairesMommy" wrote:

The number one lesson I've learned since all these things started happening with Ben is to fight like hell, don't let yourself get pushed around by doctors, and never ever doubt yourself. As soon as I grew a backbone and knew I wasn't crazy I started getting answers about what was wrong with my son.

myyams, what is your name?

I know there definitely have been times I wished I had the pulse-ox meter at home, but I wonder if it would drive me mental? Would I be plugging him in every time he got a cough or sounded rattly in his chest? It definitely would give peace of mind though. I remember being so scared to take him home after the RSV in January. I could see his oxygen numbers on the monitor and I was afraid that he'd start crashing again but that I wouldn't know because he wasn't being monitored at home.

I am going to send you a pm so I don't bombard this board with all of this off stuff.

Joined: 11/28/06
Posts: 848

Both of my girls have asthma and there is a history on my husband's side of the family. My youngest had respiratory symptoms since birth. She was born with laryngomalacia and things went downhill from there. I was told by the Pulmonologist that kiddos that have respiratory problems early on tend to outgrow those issues as their airways grow. I expected that to be the case with Madison so we'll see. She's only 5.

Alana didn't have any respiratory problems when she was little. Rarely even had a sniffle. Then we made the unfortunate decision to move into an older home that we didn't know was infested with mold. We lived there for 6 months before realizing this. During that time Alana started developing allergies and was eventually diagnosed with asthma. I truly believe the mold exposure triggered something in her body and now she's left with a chronic condition that she isn't expected to "grow out of."

I think each case is different. I think asthma is overdiagnosed by doctors that aren't experts and I think parents tend to assume their child has asthma just because they were prescribed an inhaler. Asthma should only be diagnosed through PFTs and a thorough medical history.

Oh, and I just wanted to mention that we have a peak flow meter for my girls. It really helps to tell the difference between a flare-up and a common cold and it gives us an idea of how well the medication is working.

Alissa_Sal's picture
Joined: 06/29/06
Posts: 6427

"ClairesMommy" wrote:

Asthma is, or at least can start out as, a very vague, dismissible, puzzling collection of symptoms. I don't know why Ben got asthma. Maybe it had something to do with the fluid trapped in his lungs for the first week - under the oxy hood and then the isolete. IDK. Maybe it had something to do with immunity he got from me while bfing. As soon as he was weaned at a year all his problems started. For him the trigger is respiratory viruses. He could never just have a cough - it always turned into pneumonia or bronchitis or tonsillitis and his oxygen levels would drop with wheezing and really intense in-drawing. The most recent thing was RSV last January which triggered his airways to slam shut. Oxygen levels in the 70s is very very bad and he was in the hospital for 4 days. So, at least for our family, flu shots and vaccines are important, especially the ones that prevent respiratory issues. I wish there was a vaccine for RSV. Sad

Tristan was the same way. He doesn't seem to have any other triggers like exercise or cold air, but every cold would turn into a huge illness with serious respiratory distress. He had to be hospitalized for multiple days twice in the same month once before he was two. Scary stuff. However, we have had him on Singulair and Pulmicort for two years now (we actually just decreased the dosage of Pulmicort this summer) and he has done much much better. He still gets wheezy sometimes when he gets sick, but he doesn't get sick as often and when he does it is nothing like before. How old is Ben? Is he on anything? (If that's too personal, disregard. Lol

ETA: We're huge on flu shots and vaccines in my house too. My DH has asthma too which is irritated by illness, and also dust and strong chemicals and scents, so I also only use unscented laundry detergent, don't burn candles, don't wear perfume, et cetera.

ClairesMommy's picture
Joined: 08/15/06
Posts: 2299

"Alissa_Sal" wrote:

Tristan was the same way. He doesn't seem to have any other triggers like exercise or cold air, but every cold would turn into a huge illness with serious respiratory distress. He had to be hospitalized for multiple days twice in the same month once before he was two. Scary stuff. However, we have had him on Singulair and Pulmicort for two years now (we actually just decreased the dosage of Pulmicort this summer) and he has done much much better. He still gets wheezy sometimes when he gets sick, but he doesn't get sick as often and when he does it is nothing like before. How old is Ben? Is he on anything? (If that's too personal, disregard. Lol

ETA: We're huge on flu shots and vaccines in my house too. My DH has asthma too which is irritated by illness, and also dust and strong chemicals and scents, so I also only use unscented laundry detergent, don't burn candles, don't wear perfume, et cetera.

Ben is 3 1/2. He's on Alvesco daily and of course ventolin if needed. He used to take FloVent, but it didn't help much. Once he was switched to Alvesco in the hospital it's made a huge difference. Yes, it's so scary to watch your child struggle to breathe. I'm sorry you had to go through it with Tristan Sad Ben's pedi thinks that he could grow out of it by age 8 - 10, as his grows and his airways get bigger. IDK. I've read some new research to the contrary - that kids with asthma at a young age are in fact unlikely to grow out of it.

Alissa_Sal's picture
Joined: 06/29/06
Posts: 6427

"ClairesMommy" wrote:

Ben is 3 1/2. He's on Alvesco daily and of course ventolin if needed. He used to take FloVent, but it didn't help much. Once he was switched to Alvesco in the hospital it's made a huge difference. Yes, it's so scary to watch your child struggle to breathe. I'm sorry you had to go through it with Tristan Sad Ben's pedi thinks that he could grow out of it by age 8 - 10, as his grows and his airways get bigger. IDK. I've read some new research to the contrary - that kids with asthma at a young age are in fact unlikely to grow out of it.

I'm sorry you've had to go through it with Ben too. Soooo sooo scary. T had a cold earlier this week (he seems to be feeling better now) and I went to check on him at like 4 am because he was coughing and I could hear him wheezing, and I just laid there forever trying to decide if I should wake him up and make him do a neubilizer treatment or not. The bad thing about that is that they are like a shot of adrenalin, so good luck trying to get him to go back to sleep afterwards, but then you also don't want to let him go into a real attack...it's rough. Sad Anyway, I'm glad that you have found a treatment plan that seems to be helping with Ben. I am still hopeful that T will outgrow his, but realistically know that he may not. Both my husband (T's dad) and DH's sister have had asthma since they were kids and still have it as adults, so....

ClairesMommy's picture
Joined: 08/15/06
Posts: 2299

"Alissa_Sal" wrote:

I'm sorry you've had to go through it with Ben too. Soooo sooo scary. T had a cold earlier this week (he seems to be feeling better now) and I went to check on him at like 4 am because he was coughing and I could hear him wheezing, and I just laid there forever trying to decide if I should wake him up and make him do a neubilizer treatment or not. The bad thing about that is that they are like a shot of adrenalin, so good luck trying to get him to go back to sleep afterwards, but then you also don't want to let him go into a real attack...it's rough. Sad Anyway, I'm glad that you have found a treatment plan that seems to be helping with Ben. I am still hopeful that T will outgrow his, but realistically know that he may not. Both my husband (T's dad) and DH's sister have had asthma since they were kids and still have it as adults, so....

I remember the shots of ventolin that day like it was yesterday - he must've had over 100 shots. I remember his heart rate going over 200, and how violently he was shaking. Still makes me upset.