Could your dishwasher increase your child’s risk of developing allergies? Contentious new research out of Sweden suggests that parents are better off hand washing their dirty plates.
The latest findings out of the University of Gothenburg fall in line with growing research that’s warning that kids need exposure to germs, bacteria and dirt so their immune systems get a work out. It’s called the “hygiene hypothesis” – a theory that city kids are growing up in squeaky clean environments to their health’s detriment.
“I think it is very interesting that with a very common lifestyle factor like dishwashing, we could see effects on allergy development,” he told NPR.
His study is based on 1,029 Swedish children who were about seven to eight years old. Hesselmar and his team looked at whether parents fed their kids produce straight from farms, if they were eating fermented food packed with probiotics and if parents cleaned up in the kitchen using a dish washer or not.
They zeroed in on a few concerns: eczema, hay fever and asthma. Turns out, kids who grew up with a dirty sink of dishes their family tended to had half the allergies of their peers whose household relied on the dishwasher.
If kids were eating farm-grown produce or fermented foods, they fared even better in staving off allergies. Other research has even tied pets and living in rural areas as beneficial to kids’ immune systems.
But keep in mind, these findings are preliminary, the researchers warn. And they’ve only pointed to an association not a cause so they still haven’t uncovered why something as simple as dish washing could be tied to less allergies.
Hesselmar suspects it goes back to the hygiene hypothesis, though – hand washing our dirty dishes leaves behind some bacteria for our immune systems to fend off.
Hesselmar’s full findings were published Monday in the journal Pediatrics. Read the study here.