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The hygiene hypothesis 

The hygiene hypothesis
Chapter:
The hygiene hypothesis
Author(s):

Graham Devereux

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780199651559.003.0058
Page of

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date: 17 November 2018

Hay fever has been described as a “post industrial revolution epidemic,” and successive morbidity surveys from British general practice suggest that its prevalence has continued to increase over the past 30 years. Other evidence suggests a recent increase in the prevalence of asthma and childhood eczema. I studied the epidemiology of hay fever in a national sample of 17,414 British children born during one week in March 1958 and followed up to the age of 23 years . . . At both 11 and 23 years of age hay fever was inversely related to the number of children in the household at age 11 . . . These observations could be explained if allergic diseases were prevented by infection in early childhood, transmitted by unhygienic contact with older siblings, or acquired prenatally from a mother infected by contact with her older children. Later infection or reinfection by younger siblings might confer additional protection against hay fever.

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