In recent years the medical community has come clean about a dirty little secret: good hygiene can be a bad thing. In fact, some scientists believe that the growing number of people being diagnosed with asthma is caused by the effects of over-cleanliness on the immune system.

How the Immune System Affects Asthma

Most people today go to great lengths to avoid germs and dirt. But now researchers believe that an over-emphasis on hygiene could be throwing the immune system out of whack and ultimately leading to an increased risk in asthma and other chronic inflammatory diseases.

Your immune system's job is to fight off bacteria and viruses that can make you sick by developing antibodies against them.

Ideally, such antibodies would be limited to fighting illnesses, but for people whose immune systems are oversensitive, they can also create the same type of response against harmless substances such as pets, pollen, and dust.

The Asthma and Immune System Relationship

The way this occurs is when you come into contact with an allergen, your immune system views it as a foreign invader. It responds in a multi-step process that includes releasing chemicals throughout your body, including in your bronchial tubes, which ultimately leads to the swelling and inflammation that commonly occurs with asthma. The more swelling that occurs, the harder it is to move air in and out of your lungs.

It's also important to note that for some people, this reaction doesn't occur with the first exposure to an allergen, but rather kicks in on subsequent contact and can become more exaggerated with repeated exposures.

Factors That Increase Asthma Risk

Scientists don't complete understand why some people experience this immune-system response to harmless substances while others don't. But many scientists do believe there's a genetic predisposition for this to occur. And others believe that a compromised immune system could be caused by modern day efforts to avoid germs.

Fighting Back

The best way to fight back against this immune-system response is to avoid your triggers. You can also use allergy and asthma medications that block the immune system response, or once it occurs, try to reverse it.

Some researchers looking at the hygiene theory are also exploring new ways that exposure to germs might be used in the future to prevent and treat chronic inflammatory conditions like asthma without making people sick in the process. This ultimately may be an important step to get the immune system back on track and reduce the number of people at risk for experiencing an asthma attack.




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