Time To Scrub the Antibacterial Cleaners
WEDNESDAY, Sept. 27 (HealthSCOUT) -- Scrub the antibacterial cleaners -- now there's more evidence to suggest germs are good for babies. Far from protecting infants, sealing them inside a sanitized world may prevent their immune systems from developing into infection-fighting machines, researchers say.
In a recent study published in the British Medical Journal, scientists found twins were half as likely to be hospitalized for asthma as single babies. Dr. David P. Strachan and his colleagues analyzed admission data for respiratory illnesses of twins and single babies up to the age of 10 in Scottish hospitals. They did find twins were more susceptible to viral chest infections such as
bronchitis and bronchiolitis.
"These [infections] tend to be higher in babies of lower birth weight and twins are lighter on average than singletons," explains Strachan, professor of epidemiology at St. George's Hospital Medical School in London.
In contrast, twins may be less likely to develop asthma because of the "protective effect of large families on allergies," he writes. Scientists believe if the immune system isn't stimulated by germs during infancy, it can then overreact to allergens associated with asthma, such as pollen,
house dust and animal dander. Strachan's research corroborates an earlier study: Children who attended day care before they were 6 months old or had two or more older siblings were about half as likely to develop asthma by 13 as kids who had one or no older sibling or were not in day care until they were older.
"What this tells us is that we may be going overboard when it comes to fighting germs," says Anne L. Wright, a pediatrics research professor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. "We probably don't need to be so paranoid about germs. Although we don't have the data to prove it, scrubbing everything with antibacterial cleaners probably isn't going to make our homes healthier for babies," she explains. Wright also suggests parents may be too concerned about germs being transmitted to their babies by touching by other children and adults. However, parents of low birth weight babies need to be very vigilant about this because they are more vulnerable to infections, she cautions.