The hygiene hypothesis

Graham Devereux

in Landmark Papers in Allergy

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print February 2013 | ISBN: 9780199651559
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754241 | DOI:

Series: Landmark Papers

The hygiene hypothesis

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  • Public Health and Epidemiology
  • Immunology
  • Respiratory Medicine and Pulmonology


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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.

Chapter.  1538 words. 

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology ; Immunology ; Respiratory Medicine and Pulmonology

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