They say that cleanliness is next to godliness, but is having the cleanest home on the block really the best way to keep your family healthy? Studies are increasingly indicating that an overly clean home could actually be placing your children at a higher risk of developing illnesses later in life. In being too clean and destroying all bacteria in your home you’re creating two potential risks for your children, one of which can also affect family members of any age.
As a society we’ve been programmed to think that having an excessively clean home is the only way to be safe. Children are discouraged from becoming too dirty when playing outside, cleaning products tout their ability to kill 99.9% of bacteria and the companies that produce said cleaning products run marketing campaigns that are seemingly aimed to instill fear in the general populace.
Whilst there are bacteria in your home that can cause serious illness, they are thankfully few in number. In removing all bacteria you could be depriving your child’s immune system the opportunity of fully developing. Small amounts of bacteria are a necessity for our bodies to develop adequate responses, if these responses are not developed, illnesses that should be dealt with by our immune systems could prove too difficult to contain. This theory of introducing small amounts of an illness is a traditional concept and forms the basis of immunisation treatments, it also applies to household allergens and the development of respiratory difficulties.
Since the 1960s there’s been a dramatic rise in the number of children who suffer from atopic diseases such as asthma and hay fever. There hasn’t yet been a study which fully confirms this hypothesis, however, there are some really striking results which seem to back up the theory.
It’s a difficult balance to strike, clean too much and you could be setting your child up for respiratory issues later in life, don’t clean enough and you run the risk of an infection, illness or irritation now. It seems to us that the best approach is to take steps to clean your home but not to do so too often. A thorough clean once a week should remove any harmful allergens or bacteria whilst leaving time for an acceptable build-up to bolster your immune system.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, go easy on the cleaning products in your home. You may be tempted to use bleach on every worktop surface, polish on your wooden furniture and air freshening sprays to cover any bad odours but this could well be making an allergy worse. Not only are you potentially eradicating bacteria and allergens needed to develop immunities, but you’re actually adding extra allergens into the environment.
When someone has cleaned a room with bleach the smell of chlorine is immediately noticeable, the same goes for many other powerful cleaning agents. If you can smell it, it has the potential to exacerbate the respiratory issues of any allergy sufferer who comes into contact with it. What’s often intended as a gesture of good hygiene and health often leads to turning the safe haven of your home into a very uncomfortable area for an allergy sufferer.
If there’s an area that you have to clean, consider whether you really need to use cleaning products. If you simple can’t do without them, look into using unscented products. Ideally you’d try to cut out as many products as you can, whilst this may not be feasible for areas such as the bathroom or kitchen, general dusting could quite easily be completed with a damp cloth.
In cutting down on the products you should be able to keep a few of the less harmful allergens and bacteria around for healthy development and also not aggravate any existing allergy issues.
We’d be interested to know if there’s been an increase in allergies or minor illnesses in your family throughout the generations. Do you think it comes down to the improved standard of living or is it perhaps due to some other factor?
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