For years I’ve been committed to (some would say obsessed with) the idea that the cleaner I keep my home, the healthier my kids will be. Many of us parents have spent hours scrubbing floors, sanitizing toys and wiping down countertops. We’ve shielded our newborn babies from pets and strangers and insisted our kids wash their hands a dozen times per day.
Now a new study suggests that moms like me have been doing it wrong. In fact, early exposure to allergens and bacteria may be linked to lower incidences of allergies and asthma later in life.
The study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, looked at 467 children from birth through 3 years old. Participants were screened for allergies every year, and their homes were tested for allergens and bacteria.
Researchers were surprised by the results. Children exposed to mouse and cat dander, as well as cockroach droppings, before they turned 1 year old actually experienced lower rates of allergies and wheezing by age 3 than kids who were not exposed. In fact, kids who were not exposed were three times more likely to have allergies and experience wheezing. Exposure to bacteria was also linked to lower rates of allergies. However, exposure after the first birthday did not have the same result.
“We’re not promoting bringing rodents and cockroaches into the home, but this data does suggest that being too clean may not be good,” study co-author Robert Wood, chief of the division of allergy and immunology at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, told NBC News.
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