For more than a decade, peanut allergies in children have tripled in the United States. These dangerous allergies are causing harmful anaphylactic reactions that can lead to death. In 2008 a research team discovered that 1.4% of children had a peanut allergy, more than three times the 0.4% rate back in 1997. (Hendricks, 2010) This is an alarming rise that should not be ignored. The question is, why is this happening? I believe that the recent spike in peanut allergies is partly due to the excessive cleanliness during a child’s developmental years in our society.
This phenomenon is known as the Hygiene Hypothesis, which was first introduced by Dr. Erika Von Mutius. During the 1990’s she compared the rates of allergies and asthma in East and West Germany. Before these two places were unified, East Germany was poorer and less hygienic than their neighbors to the West. Dr. Von Mutius hypothesized that the children growing up in East Germany would suffer from more allergies than the children in West Germany. To her surprise she found that it was actually the opposite! As a result from her studies, the Hygiene Hypothesis was born. (PBS, 2001). The Hygiene Hypothesis states