The Hygiene Hypothesis

The next time you catch your toddler putting something disgusting in its mouth, you can soothe yourself with the so-called ‘hygiene hypothesis’. According to this theory, “exposure to infectious agents early in life offers protection against allergic diseases. The more hygienic a child’s environment, the greater the risk”.


I’m not advocating that you feed your child spoiled food, or make them lick the floor. But the next time you find your child nibbling on a dead cockroach, be grateful that they are building up their immune system.


If only I had read the ‘hygiene hypothesis’ study a few years ago when my girls were painting their cots in poo, sitting around a pile of dog poo in our garden and sticking their fingers in it, and drinking out of the dog bowl. At least I can now hope that those minutes I took my eye off my kids was serving them well for later in life. It may be a feeble justification, but I’m running with it. Of course, their time spent in Cambodian orphanages as babies is an added bonus, for no other reason than it may have helped strengthen their immune system. Their toddler years living in India will hopefully go a long way too.

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