In news sure to please parents everywhere, new research suggests not being exposed to
enough microbes early in life – we’re talking bacteria and germs here – can trigger
The Institute of Cancer Research in London released their findings recently, with the link
quickly made in dozens of articles that over-cleaning your home can lead to childhood
Professor Sally Bloomfield, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, told
HuffPost UK that a lot of those articles were missing the point.
“Hygiene is something so much more than cleanliness,” she said. “General day-to-day
cleaning – such as how often we clean the toilet or how often we clean the floor – has very
little impact in terms of protecting us from disease.”
The best course of action to help keep your kids healthy is to help train their bodies to
recognise what’s dangerous and what’s not – and how to react.
Professor Bloomfield says it’s beneficial for children to have a wide exposure to different
microbes, while maintaining good hygiene “at the times and places that matter” to protect
them from disease.
“Good hygiene when you’re preparing raw food, when you’re using the toilet, when you’re
disposing of rubbish and when you’re looking after pets is important,” she said. “All that
involves is hand washing, keeping surfaces clean and all of the things most of us already do.”
Professor Bloomfield also suggests adopting a lifestyle that is “not too clean”.
A major factor is encouraging children to play outside, providing them with the chance to
breathe in a range of microbes from the environment.
“Outdoors there is a huge range of microbes, indoors there are a limited amount of
microbes and they will be the ones that tend to build up indoors, such as our own microbes,
our pets and our food,” explained Professor Bloomfield.
“The important thing is we expose children to the broadest range of microbes as possible –
if they spend too much time indoors, a child doesn’t get that exposure.”
Professor Bloomfield also suggested that encouraging children to play with other children
can expose them to a wider variety of microbes. “It’s also about children interacting with
their parents and exchanging microbes when they’re being breastfed or cuddled,” she said.
The take-home message is: stop stressing about how clean your home is and encourage
outdoor play instead.