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Hundreds of things can trigger allergic reactions and asthma. And more than 50 million Americans have some type of allergy, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, and about 25 million Americans have asthma, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The number one thing to help fight this is a clean home, right?

Maybe…not? According to a new study, while home cleanliness is absolutely vital, a home that’s too clean can leave a newborn child vulnerable to allergies and asthma later in life. In fact, infants are much less likely to suffer from allergies or wheezing if they are exposed to household bacteria and allergens from pest and pets during their first year of life.

According to HealthDay, the results stunned researchers, who had been following up on earlier studies that found an increased risk of asthma among inner-city dwellers exposed to high levels of pest and pet droppings and allergens.

“What we found was somewhat surprising and somewhat contradictory to our original predictions,” said study co-author Dr. Robert Wood, chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore. “It turned out to be completely opposite — the more of those three allergens you were exposed to, the less likely you were to go on to have wheezing or allergy.”

About 41 percent of allergy-free and wheeze-free children in the study grew up in homes that were rich with allergens and bacteria.

The study was published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.

The findings support the “hygiene hypothesis,” which suggests that children in overly clean houses may be more likely to suffer from allergies because their bodies haven’t built an immunity to them, said Dr. Todd Mahr, an allergist-immunologist in La Crosse, Wis., and chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Section on Allergy & Immunology.

Both Wood and Mahr cautioned that these findings need to be verified, and that parents shouldn’t make any household decisions based on them.

For example, there’s no need to adopt a new pet to help immunize their kids.

“We would not take any of this as information we could use to give advice,” Wood said. “Please don’t get an intentional bug infestation in your house. There’s no reason to think that would help.”

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