Anxiety over cleanliness blamed for rise in illnesses and allergiesby William Hobson
Overcoming anxiety over cleanliness and hygiene may be the only way to stall the soaring rise of allergies and related illnesses in developed countries, a leading allergy researcher has said.
A new report from the Laboratory for Allergy Research in Montreal, Canada, has revealed that over the past twenty years the number of people suffering from allergies in Western populations has skyrocketed. In 1980, just ten per cent of westerners suffered from allergies. Today the figure is thought to be as high as 30%.
The Daily Telegraph reports that today, three times as many people now suffer from conditions such as eczema, hay fever, hives or asthma. One in ten children are estimated to be asthmatic - and the mortality rate for such allergenic conditions has increased 28% between 1980 and 1994.
Dr Guy Delepasse of the Laboratory for Allergy Research believes that the rise is due to the growing obsession with cleanliness. Anxiety over harmful bacteria and increasing use of antibacterial sterilisers have combined to create a sterile environment that leaves the immune system ill-equipped to develop a resistance to bacterial agents, says Dr Delepasse.
"Allergies and other autoimmune diseases such as Type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis are the result of our immune system turning against us," Dr Delepasse told The Telegraph. "There is an inverse relationship between the level of hygiene and the incidence of allergies and autoimmune diseases."
"The more sterile the environment a child lives in, the higher the risk he or she will develop allergies or an autoimmune problem in their lifetime."
Unfortunately for many parents, anxiety over providing a clean and safe environment for their children is a more immediate and obvious concern. The availability of and the marketing tactics used by anti-bacterial cleaning products creates massive pressure to create a sterile environment in the home, particularly where children are present, leading to an underlying and constant anxiety. Hypnotherapy and other behavioural treatments could help remove this fixation - and help fight the rise in allergenic conditions.