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It would appear beyond doubt that allergies of all kinds have increased rapidly in modern times. One of numerous reasons put forward for this development is the so-called hygiene hypothesis.
This proposes that the rising incidence of allergy and asthma is linked to reduced exposure to bacteria, for example through declining family sizes and higher general standards of cleanliness.
According to this theory, repeated exposure to microbes at an early age actually helps the developing immune system to adapt properly. Without this exposure, the immune system is under-stimulated and responds inappropriately to stimuli that are otherwise harmless, such as foods and pollens.
This theory, though widely accepted, is likely to be just one factor involved in the allergy epidemic.
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