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Excessive cleanliness linked to child asthma
Detail: HIGH levels of personal hygiene increase the risk of young children having eczema and asthma, according to a new study published today.

Researchers concluded that creating a sterile environment through excessive cleanliness could be harmful to the immune system. The research looked at nearly 11,000 children participating in a long-term study in the Bristol area.

Parents were surveyed about their children's wheezy breath and eczema symptoms up to the age of six months and then between 30 and 42 months.

A simple hygiene score was derived on the frequency of hand washing, bathing and showering, using responses to questionnaires when the children were 15 months old.

The study found that increasing levels of hygiene are associated with wheezing and atopic eczema occurring between 30 and 42 months of age, but not in the first six months after birth. For every increased unit in the hygiene score the likelihood of a child wheezing between the age of 30 and 42 months increased by 4pc. In children under the age of six months, wheezing was partly explained by the high levels of chemical products used to clean the home which can irritate the airways.

But the study found eczema was significantly associated with high hygiene scores, irrespective of the amount of chemicals used.

The authors, led by Dr Andrea Sherriff of Bristol University, conclude, "The importance of hygiene in public health should not be dismissed. "However the creation of a sterile environment through excessive cleanliness may potentially be harmful to the immune system."

The study is featured in the Archives of Disease in Childhood journal, which is published today by the British Medical Association.

Source: Western Mail
Date: June 27 2002