Studies suggest that sometimes “being too clean” may harm children later in life.

As a parent,  it’s a natural to want to keep your home as clean as possible, despite the constant messes your children create. However, a recent study from the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology shows evidence that exposing children to allergens and bacteria early on in life may decrease their risk of developing allergies and asthma when they get older.

This study focused on a group of children from birth to 3 years old. The children who were exposed to household dust and allergens from rodents, roaches and cats during their first year of life were more likely to build a stronger immune system against these allergens.

The study found that about 41 percent of the children who grew up in homes that were rich with allergens and bacteria remained asthma- and allergy-free later in life, while only 8 percent of children who suffered from both allergies and asthma had been exposed to these substances by the time they were one year old. These results were contradictory to what the researchers had originally predicted.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, asthma is the leading chronic disease in children. It is also the top reason for missed school days. Additionally, allergies affect an estimated 40 percent of children in the United States. Since this study was published in 2014, there have been many other studies that support the “hygiene hypothesis,” which argues that being too clean can contribute to allergies.

Using spray cleaning products or bleach solutions can also trigger allergies and asthma in both children and adults. While keeping your home squeaky clean may be an important part of your routine, remember to let your kids play and get dirty. Try to avoid excessive use of antibacterial soaps and cleansers, so that your children’s immune system can learn how to fight off allergens later in life!