Too Clean-A Critical Look At The Alleged Link Between Asthma and Cleanliness


Americans are ridiculed around the world for our attention to cleanliness. Recently some natural health experts have suggested that the growing problem of childhood asthma is directly related to our obsession with clean homes and a handful of studies seem to confirm their suspicions. Are these claims founded in truth or are they the result of "experts" deliberately misinterpreting data? Here's what we know for sure:

*It's true that childhood asthma is more common in the US than some so-called Third World countries but it's also true that the staggering infant mortality rate in those countries means that many Third World children simply don't live long enough to develop the symptoms of asthma.

*It's also true that our immune systems need a certain level of germ exposure to develop fully but that exposure need is easily met during normal daily activities. (In fact, the birthing process exposes infants to a number of germs.) Unless your child is living in a bubble he's getting all the germs he needs to develop a healthy immune system.

*Asthma is far more common in impoverished children than in middle-class or wealthy children and the number of childhood asthma cases in the US has risen right along with the number of children living in poverty. If cleanliness was really a factor we should be seeing a rise in asthma across the board and not just among those least likely to practice good household cleaning habits.

*All major asthma organizations promote household cleanliness as a first-line defense against asthma and other allergic conditions. They all tell us that regular dusting and vacuuming go a long way toward removing allergens from our homes.

Given what we know about asthma it's clear that cleanliness is an important part of living with asthma and not, as some claim, part of the problem.

Lisa Barger is a traditionally trained naturopath specializing in illness prevention counseling. Ms. Barger holds certification in Ayurveda, Iridology, Homeopathy, Traditional Chinese Medicine and American Herbology.


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