While the number of U.S. children suffering from allergic diseases is rising, so are cases among adults, says Hillinger, an assistant professor of medicine at the Geisel School. “In the developed countries, such as ours, there is definitely increasing incidence of this and I think it’s partially due to the hygiene hypothesis, where perhaps we live in a little bit too clean an environment,” says Hillinger, who practices at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. “Our immune systems need some exposure as we’re growing up, to germs, to foreign substances, and even dirt.”
During the interview, Hillinger explains that with less exposure to various infections, the immune systems of people in the U.S have been “sabotaged, so to speak.” She continues, “the immune system is now recognizing foreign substances like pollen, foods, and even insect venoms, and individuals are now reacting to those substances.”
Listen to the full story, broadcast 7/31/13 on VPR.