Swedish researchers have identified a link between kids getting allergies and using the dishwasher. It’s connected to the hygiene hypothesis: the idea that we use too many detergents, hand gels, and bleaches in an effort to sterilize our lives. As a result, kids allergies are sky rocketing.
If kids are exposed to germs, especially early in life, they’re less likely to acquire allergies like asthma and eczema. If kids aren’t exposed to enough germs, then it can cause their immune systems to think that things are threats when they’re not. These misfires cause allergies. One of the ways researchers, publishing in the journal Pediatrics, have found to increase exposure to bacteria is by hand washing dishes instead of using a dishwasher.
Researchers looked at 1,000 Swedish families with kids between 7 and 8 years old. Kids that came from families that hand washed dished were 50 percent less likely to be plagued with allergies like asthma, hay fever, and eczema.
"I think it is very interesting that with a very common lifestyle factor like dishwashing, we could see effects on allergy development," says Dr. Bill Hesselmar of Sweden's University of Gothenburg, who led the study, told NPR.
Much more research needs to be done on the subject but it’s a look into why kids' allergies seem to be increasing at dramatic rates.
"I think it's very intriguing and lends one more 'X' on the column for the hygiene hypothesis," Dr. Todd Mahr, an allergist at the Gundersen Health System in La Crosse, Wis., and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics said to NPR.
From the Organic Authority Files
The hygiene hypothesis seems to be coming up more lately. I wrote a while back about the importance of dirt in a child’s life. Dirt is good for your kids. From worms to animal poop and everything in between, getting down and dirty is increasingly important for the little ones. Organisms like bacteria, viruses, and even worms that kids come in contact with are important for the development of their immune system.
“What a child is doing when he puts things in his mouth is allowing his immune response to explore his environment,” Mary Ruebush, a microbiology and immunology instructor, wrote in her new book, “Why Dirt Is Good” (Kaplan), reported in The New York Times. “Not only does this allow for ‘practice’ of immune responses, which will be necessary for protection, but it also plays a critical role in teaching the immature immune response what is best ignored.”
Is your house too clean? Here are some other ways to dirty it up a bit. Cut out the harsh cleaners like bleach and ammonia and switch to white vinegar and baking soda. Replace antibacterial soaps and gels with traditional soap and warm water. Avoid bath products like soaps and body washes that contain triclosan. And play with your kids outside, in the dirt. All these little steps may help boost a healthy child’s immune system, like the good ol’ days.
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Image of a child loading a dishwasher from Shuttershock