According to a study done at the University of Gothenburg, washing dishes by hand can decrease the risk of children developing allergies by 40% compared to using a dishwasher. The “hygiene hypothesis” states that exposing children to small amounts of bacteria can actually help strengthen their immune systems and provide a greater tolerance to allergies.
Dr. Bill Hesselmar, the study’s author, insists that if children are exposed to microbes at an early age, their immune systems are stimulated and become tolerant of those agents. The study took a look at 1,000 children between the ages of seven and eight. Out of those children, only 23% had eczema compared to 38% from families that used dishwashers instead of hand washing. Although Jaime Garcia Dias said the study only showed an association and more studies will need to be done to prove cause and effect, Dr. Hesselmar was excited by the findings that some bacteria exposure may actually be beneficial.
It is an important finding, especially with the market being currently saturated with antibacterial products. There has been some debate as to whether or not these products lower immune system responses to bacteria in general, causing more outbreaks of disease. It will be interesting as further studies are done to find out if this correlation between antibacterial products and bacterial tolerance is in fact true, and that exposure to small amounts of bacteria is helpful rather than harmful as so many marketers of antibacterial products would lead us to believe.