Doing dishes by hand, rather than loading them into the dishwasher, can help ward off childhood allergies, a new study has found.
Researchers in Sweden found that children living in families that hand-washed their dishes were about 40 per cent less likely to develop allergies compared with kids in homes that used a dishwasher.
Study researcher Dr Bill Hesselmar, an allergist at the University of Gothenburg Department of Pediatrics, said the team believes that hand-washing dishes does not get them as clean as the dishwasher does, which is actually a good thing because it can help protect against allergies by exposing family members to more bacteria.
Some health researchers think that increased exposure to microbes during early life may stimulate children’s immune systems, and that this stimulation may help reduce the risk that a child will develop allergies, the study authors wrote in the journal Pediatrics.
Other studies have suggested that lower income levels, living in more crowded situations and immigration status are all linked with a reduced risk of allergies, and these three factors may also be associated with dishwashing practices, researchers said.
Hesselmar said the new findings were interesting but it is too soon to recommend hand-washing dishes as an allergy-prevention strategy, ‘LiveScience’ reported.
The study analysed data from more than 1,000 children living in two regions of Sweden. Parents completed questionnaires asking whether their 7- and 8-year-old children had eczema, asthma or seasonal allergies.
Parents also were asked about their typical dishwashing practices, as well as how frequently their child ate fermented foods or farm-fresh foods, which have higher bacterial content than other foods.
Among the kids whose parents hand-washed dishes, allergy rates were even lower among the those who also ate more foods that were fermented or came directly from farms, according to the study.