Leading Article: Give germs a chance

TELEVISION MAY do no harm, but other aspects of modern life are definitely bad for you. Doctors are puzzled by the rise and rise of allergic conditions, such as asthma, eczema and hay fever. It is often assumed that these are caused by new poisons pumped into the environment by our heavily industrialised society. But another theory is put forward in The Lancet tomorrow, which is that it is the very cleanliness of modern lifestyles that is making us ill. The "hygiene hypothesis" is that the lack of infections to fight plays havoc with the human immune system, and causes it to overreact to minor irritations.

All over the world, children in poorer families, who live simpler lives or who live on farms, are less likely to suffer allergies. So throw away the anti-bacterial chopping-boards and cloths. Don't have a bath. Keep a chicken in the back garden. Give germs a break.

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