Children's Immunity: FAQs

Dr Ng Chung Wai, Family Physician and Chairperson (Infection Control and Infectious Diseases Workgroup), SingHealth Polyclinics, a member of the SingHealth group, answers your questions on children's immunity.

Is Exposure to Germs a Way to Boost Children’s Immune System?

While getting an actual infection may make a child immune to subsequent infections by the same germ, this is not always the case. For example, a child can get diphtheria more than once. The infections may result in complications that cause permanent damage, so it is safer to be protected by the diphtheria vaccine than by getting diphtheria.

Can Making the Environment and Your Child Extremely Clean Actually Make Them More Susceptible to Germs?

This is the “hygiene hypothesis” which postulates that an “overly-clean environment” and the lack of exposure to germs predisposes a child to developing allergic diseases such as hay fever and asthma — not so much a susceptibility to germs. There are several major issues with the hypothesis. For example, studies suggest that improving hygiene is not necessarily linked to an increase in asthma in children.

So the answer is: no, making the environment and children extremely clean does not make them more susceptible to germs.

Read on to find out more about a child’s immunity.

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