Are children kept too clean?

Some experts believe that over-sanitised homes have caused a rise in allergies, but others stress the importance of good hygiene for little ones' health. Mums and experts discuss

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  • “Dirt helps development”

    “Children need to get their hands ‘dirty’ to learn. The skills that children develop in order to learn to write are learned through finger painting, and playing with many different wet and dry textures. Lack of such opportunities may lead to children missing out on developing fine motor skills.”

    Dr Joanne Brooks, consultant paediatrician

  • “Cleanliness is more important now than ever”

    Good hygiene is more important than ever now that we have MRSA and superbugs to contend with. ‘Targeted hygiene’ is the key: to identify the areas where infections can be spread, such as door handles and food utensils, and to concentrate on keeping these clean rather than disturbing the natural microbe flora in our homes which could be useful for our health.”

    Professor Sally Bloomfield, chairman of the International Scientific Forum on Home Hygiene

  • “It’s unnatural to stop kids getting mucky!”

    “I grew up as one of five boys and we loved playing outside and getting covered in mud. I feel it would be too restrictive for my son to try and stop him from getting his hands or clothes dirty. Playing in his sandpit or exploring the garden are great fun and help him learn about nature.”

     Ben Harrold, from London, dad to Owen, 2, and Sophie, 8 months

  • “Bathing every day is bad for babies’ skin”

    “Using soap or alkaline cleansers has been one of the major contributors to the rise in skin sensitivity as they strip the skin’s natural acidic protection. I would say children don’t need to be bathed more often than every other or every three days, and shouldn’t use alkaline-based soap or perfumed products until they’re in their teenage years.”

     Sally Penford, education manager at the International Dermal Institute 

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  • “I had 20 ready sterilised dummies on standby!”

    “I used a MAM soother saver with my daughter so it was always attached to her clothes, but I also had about 20 ready sterilised dummies just in case one fell on the floor. I changed her dummy every hour unless she was sleeping.”

    Lucy Honnor, 37, from Hampshire, mum to Katelin, 2, Daniel, 10, and Aaron, 7

  • “Bacteria help protect against allergy”

    “There is some evidence that the immune system needs contact with ‘background’ levels of certain bacteria. This helps to direct it down the ‘immunity’ route rather than down the ‘allergy’ route. This is especially important during the first few months of life when your child’s immune system is developing, and it is especially relevant for ‘high-risk’ children with a family history of allergy.”

    John Collard, clinical director at Allergy UK

  • “Cleanliness reduces asthma triggers”

    “90% of people with asthma tell us that dust triggers their condition, and over a third say that mould and fungi cause their symptoms to worsen. If you know that any of these allergens trigger your child’s asthma, you need to make sure that your home is cleaned regularly, keeping it dust free and removing indoor mould.”

    Erica Evans, clinical lead at Asthma UK

  • “I worry that cleaning products could be more harmful”

    “I’m more worried about exposing my children to all the chemicals in intensive cleaning products than to a bit of dirt and dust. I’m not sure what bleaches and antibacterial sprays can do to their skin and lungs.”

    Victoria Highgate, 37, from Carmarthen, Wales, mum to Ffion, 3


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