The past few years have seen a significant rise allergies in the United States. Allergic peoples’ reactions have also become more acute.
It turns out that a contributing factor to children’s allergies could be your home dishwasher, argues a new study, published in the medical journal “Pediatrics.”
The “hygiene hypothesis,” a long-standing theory, argues that early exposure to a range of bacteria can build immunity and allergy resistance in children, keeping a young immune system constantly engaged. In line with this theory, washing dishes by hand instead of in the machine could reduce a child’s chance of developing allergies.
“We have only tested an association between dishwashing methods and risk of allergy, but the findings fit well with the hygiene hypothesis. And there are studies showing that hand dishwashing very often is less effective than machine dishwashing in reducing bacterial content,” said Dr. Bill Hesselmar, a professor of allergies at Sweden’s Queen Silvia Children’s Hospital. “We therefore speculate that hand dishwashing is associated with increased microbial exposure, causing immune stimulation and, hence, less allergy,” added Hesselmar.
The study in question interviewed 1,000 children under ten years of age about their allergic conditions and methods of kitchen cleanliness at home. Questions also determined how much fermented and farm-direct foods were consumed in kids’ households. 12% of the households in the study washed dishes by hand. Children in these households were found to have 50% less chance of developing an allergy, compared to kids in dishwasher households, the statistics showed. The study looked at particular allergic conditions: 23% of children in hand-washing homes had eczema, a skin condition. 1.7% of those same children had asthma. Comparatively, in machine-washing homes, 38% of children had eczema and 7.3% suffered from asthma.
The study had to account for other household factors that can lower the risk of allergy development, including pets, dust and diet.
This study only affirms what researchers believed about early exposure to microbes and resulting allergies, or lack thereof. Modern methods of sanitation could actually be proving to be counter-productive when it comes to our health. It is precisely the exposure to bacteria that comes along with hand-washing dishes which promotes a healthy immune system in our bodies.