The hygiene hypothesis is a medical theory that posits that lack of exposure to dirt, germs, and other microorganisms makes you more susceptible to allergies and other diseases1. Just as a vaccination makes you immune from future diseases by introducing you to weakened strains of the disease, being exposed to pathogens can also strengthen your immune system.
But for mothers, exposing their children to dirt and grime goes against their instinct of protecting young ones from harm. So how clean is too clean -- even for kids?
Too much hand-washing. Everywhere we go we now encounter dispensers of sanitizers, reminders for us to wash our hands, and mini-alcohol gel bottles hanging from everyone’s bags. While the risk of infection diseases is high, studies have shown that the cleanest kids have the highest risk of eczema and asthma2.
Exclusively indoor culture. The internet, gadgets, and hovering parents mean that fewer kids play outside than 10 years ago. Outdoor kids aged three and below consume an average of 500 mg of soil a day3, and despite its myriad bacteria, regular dirt is harmless and can even benefit kids’ immune systems.
Hypersterile environments. Aside from obsessively washing hands and staying indoors most of the time, children may not be as exposed to allergens when their environment is hospital-like and sprayed with antiseptic every hour. Skin and food allergies have risen steadily in the last 14 years in developed countries, where kids’ environments are generally cleaner4.
What does this mean, then? It means that a little dirt won't hurt your child, so let go a bit. There is, however, one aspect where you can never be too safe or too clean, and that is with your children’s drinking water. Moms trust Absolute Distilled Drinking Water as it is the only brand in the country certified by the National Sanitation Foundation, meeting standards of safety and cleanliness that every mother would approve of.
When in doubt, trust only the brand that ensures that nothing is too safe or clean for you child.