I have just recently heard of the "Hygiene Hypothesis" that states "a lack of early childhood exposure to infectious agents, symbiotic microorganisms (e.g., gut flora or probiotics), and parasites increases susceptibility to allergic diseases by modulating immune system development." In other words, we have sanitized ourselves sick. The incidence of allergies in children has risen since we have become overly preoccupied with sanitation. The hypothesis goes on further to state: "Viewed through the lens of the hygiene hypothesis the modern obsession or preoccupation with sterlity, equating it with cleanliness and goodness, is revealed for what it is. An unhealthy cultual artifact that arose as a consequence of the more immediate and apparent benefits from adopting modern sanitary practices and technologies. Eliminating typhoid and cholera has saved millions of lives in the aggregate since sewers and clean drinking water was introduced in North American and Western Europe for instance. But in so doing we caused the rise of the modern diseases involving immune dysregulation."
When Charles Schultz created the "Peanuts" comic strip, he was dismayed to learn that Pig-Pen had become everyone's favorite character. Everyone loved Pig-Pen (including me) and I think it is because we could identify with him, and his little cloud of swirling dust. When I was about five years-old, I remember my grandfather saying to me, very sternly, "Just look at you; you have been outside for ten minutes and your clothes are all soiled."
Well, yes, I grew up in a logging town. We played outdoors. We got dirty. That's what kids do.
Last night on the 6:00 news I heard about a company here in Vancouver that can go through all the office buildings and sanitize them until there are no germs left at all. The very thought of it gives me the creeps. Since the beginning of time have lived in a symbiotic relationship with most of the world's viruses and bacteria, and most of them are beneficial to us. Many of them are necessary, in fact. For goodness sake, leave them alone.
Get outside and play...!