Some experts say the body must learn to tolerate germs to protect itself from health problems.
Good hygiene has saved millions of lives, protecting people from countless bacterial and viral infections, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But there is growing concern that strict adherence to good hygiene, though a valuable means of protecting health, has left humans open to other forms of illness.
Proponents of the "hygiene hypothesis" believe that reduced exposure to bacteria, viruses and parasites have impaired the immune system's ability to properly respond to environmental challenges.
Researchers have identified the hygiene hypothesis as a possible cause or exacerbating factor in a number of illnesses and medical problems, said Dr. Graham A.W. Rook, a professor in the department of infection at the Centre for Clinical Microbiology at the University College London.
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