Journal-Times (Grayson, KY)

Features

March 29, 2013

Hyper-cleanliness may make us prone to getting sick

A growing body of evidence suggests that all the antibacterial-wiping, germ-killing cleanliness of the developed world may actually be making us more prone to getting sick — and that a little more dirt might help us stay healthier in the long run.

The idea, known as the hygiene hypothesis, was first proposed in 1989 by epidemiologist David P. Strachen, who analyzed data from 17,414 British children and found that those who had grown up with more siblings (and presumably more germs) were less likely to have allergies and eczema. Since then, the theory has been cited as a possible explanation for everything from multiple sclerosis to hay fever and autism. But its particulars aren't so clean and clear.

Here's what researchers do know: Our immune systems need bugs. They rely on early encounters with germs to learn how to protect our bodies.

"Bacteria, fungi, lots of these things we think of as bad — they're all part of our environment, and we evolved to live with them," says Michael Zasloff, an immunologist and physician at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. Through exposure to these microbes early in life, your immune system learns what's harmful and what isn't, he says, and that readies the immune responses you'll have for the rest of your life.

"The body has got to know friend from foe," Zasloff says. If your body learns that a specific microbe or substance — any antigen, or visitor to the body — is a foe, it will send immune system cells to destroy it. If it recognizes the antigen as a friend, the immune system will leave it alone. "Exposure tells the immune system, 'These are the things you're going to run into all the time, so you don't need to worry about them.' "

Text Only
Features
  • VIDEO: Texas shoppers smash window to rescue children in hot car

    Shoppers in Texas took matter into their own hands, smashing a Jeep's windows with a hammer when they say they saw two young children inside the hot car. The children's mother reportedly said she left them while she went to get a haircut.

    July 16, 2014

  • 140516-recalls_1357_88cb85dbc81b724b4ae9c83db4426fd8.jpg Auto recalls break single-year US record with six months to go

    With six months left in 2014, automakers have already recalled more vehicles in the United States than in any other year on record.

    July 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • Scientists exposed to anthrax as U.S. lab procedures break down

    About 75 scientists may have been exposed to live anthrax bacteria in government labs after the material was mishandled while being used in experiments, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

    June 25, 2014

  • Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 10.17.35 AM.png VIDEO: Twin twisters in Nebraska

    Storm chasers captured some incredible footage of a pair of tornadoes on the ground near the northeast Nebraska village of Pilger earlier on Monday.

    June 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Alison_Lundergan_Grimes_2011.jpg Kentucky Senate race hangs on coal counties that rejected Obama

    President Barack Obama's decision to propose tougher limits on power-plant emissions poses a threat to Democrats in the coal-rich mountainsides of Kentucky and to their efforts to keep control of the Senate.

    June 4, 2014 1 Photo

  • airplanes-work-1.jpg Airfare honesty? It may be an oxymoron

    The issue of fare advertising has taken on a renewed sense of urgency now that Congress is considering removing the Transportation Department's full-fare advertising rule, which requires airlines and ticket sellers to display a price that you can actually book.

    May 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Is hashtag activism better than doing nothing? Or about the same?

    More than 1 million people — including first lady Michelle Obama — have tweeted the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls. But whether they're helping the more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria or hopping on some kind of first-world digital bandwagon depends, frankly, on whom you ask.

    May 14, 2014

  • A mom, a printer, and the new digital ease of counterfeiting

    Tarshema Brice hardly ranks among the world's elite counterfeiters. But with the help of modern consumer technology, she developed an exacting system for crafting fake U.S. greenbacks.

    May 14, 2014

  • The secrets behind Starbucks' secret menu

    You see, Starbucks has gone well beyond allowing people to build custom orders around its traditional coffee drinks.
    Last weekend, before my daughter and I left home, she had already searched for "Starbucks secret menu" on the computer and narrowed her choices to a handful of drinks (all of which involved various ingredients from Starbucks' menu for adult drinks)

    May 7, 2014

  • Your phone may not have the right to remain silent

    Big Brother would have loved your smartphone. It not only knows where you've been and who's in touch with you but also records your photos, texts, e-mails and social media exchanges. Linked to the cloud, it allows access to your entire digital lifespan, including financial and medical records.

    April 30, 2014

Poll