The notion that too much cleanliness can be bad for your health is a dangerous myth, according to a public health body.
The Royal Society for Public Health claims the hypothesis that allergies are caused by too much cleanliness and that children need to be exposed to germs has entered the public imagination – but is being misinterpreted.
And while playing outside in the dirt will expose children to good bacteria it is vital they wash their hands before eating and after going to the toilet, the RSPH stresses.
According to the report around one in four people contract an infectious intestinal disease each year while one in 20 pick up norovirus. Children also catch six to eight colds a year compared with four to six for adults. And the report claims hand washing and improved hygiene could help stop the spread of such illnesses.
However, 23 per cent of 2,000 people questioned agreed with the statement that “hygiene in the home is not important because children need to be exposed to harmful germs to build their immune system”.
“Most crucial to breaking the chain of transmission of dangerous pathogens is hand washing: after visiting the toilet, after playing with or caring for pets, before and after preparing food and after coughing, sneezing or nose-blowing,” claims the report.
The RSPH is calling for “targeted hygiene” and says children should be taught in schools how infections are spread. “This should embed best practice from an early age,” reads the report.
And it also called for better education for the media “to help ensure they do not give confusing and counter-productive messages”.