Hand-Washing Dishes Prevents Asthma and Eczema, Study Finds
According to a new study, hand washing dishes may decrease a child’s risk of asthma and eczema, as opposed to using a washing machine. It is the latest research to support the “hygiene hypothesis,” which suggests that exposure in childhood to diverse microbes can promote a healthy immune system. Allergic reactions, including asthma and eczema, occur when the immune system mistakes harmless substances for pathogens.
“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 lead author Dr. Bill Hesselmar. “We therefore speculate that hand dishwashing is associated with increased microbial exposure, causing immune stimulation and, hence, less allergy.”
Hesselmar and his team interviewed over 1,000 parents about their children’s experiences with asthma, eczema and seasonal allergies, as well as how the families washed dishes. Children whose families used washing machines had significantly higher eczema and asthma risk than children whose families washed dishes by hand.
In families who hand-wash their dishes, 23 percent of children had eczema and 1.7 percent had asthma. In families who used dishwashers, 38 percent of children had eczema and 7.3 percent had asthma. They also found that children who ate regularly fermented foods were less at risk of allergic diseases, as well as those who ate from local farms.
“If one is exposed to increased microbial exposure on the hand-washed dishes, then they may have less risk of allergy,” said Dr. Selina Gierer, a pediatric allergist with the University of Kansas Hospital. “This supports one aspect of the hygiene hypothesis, but there are many environmental and genetic factors that play a role in whether a patients will go on to develop an atopic [allergic] disorder.”
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