Proper hygiene is essential to containing the spread of the coronavirus, but some people are wondering if too much cleanliness will strip away our body’s natural defenses. By reducing our exposure to germs, are we weakening our immune systems?
According to the South China Morning Post, experts say "no." Extra hygiene measures won’t weaken the immune system and are vital in controlling the pandemic. The concern about ultra-cleanliness comes from what’s called the "hygiene hypothesis." According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the theory behind the hygiene hypothesis is that if a child’s environment is too clean, there aren’t enough germs to educate the immune system to respond accordingly. This can result in increased risk of asthma, allergies and autoimmune disorders.
But scientists say there are many other factors that can compromise our immune systems such as lack of sleep, medications, lack of vitamin D, poor nutrition and stress. There is no scientific evidence that cleanliness is a possible cause. In fact, according to the Post, a combination of thorough cleaning and disinfecting is the most effective way to get rid of pathogens like the coronavirus.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, allergist and immunologist Dr. James Fernandez, M.D., Ph.D., agrees that there is no evidence to suggest that diligent personal hygiene is dangerous to the immune system.
“For adults, the time frame we’re talking about and the hygiene measures we’re taking, I don’t think there’s a lot of clinical risk to the immune system,” he said.
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