Study: Families with children should hand wash their dishes

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Dishwashers may get your dishes sparkling clean, but they may not do much to help kids with allergies.

A new study found families who hand-wash their dishes have children with fewer allergies. Although preliminary, the study adds growing evidence that a tiny amount of dirt and germs around the house actually help the body.

It's something researchers call the "hygiene hypothesis."

"If you are exposed to microbes, especially early in life, you stimulate the immune system in various ways and it becomes tolerant," says Dr. Bill Hesselmar, author of the study.

Hesselmar told Time Magazine his research brings to light the importance of exposing children to germs at an early age. However, he cautions parents that his study is only observational and that more research is needed.

"We thought (hand washing dishes) might be important, but we didn't know, so we asked that question," says Hesselmar.

He adds that only 23% of children whose parents hand-washed dishes had a history of eczema. Eating fermented food or food bought from farms intensified those results.

Despite the findings, the study fails to answer questions about the onset of asthma and the full effects of dish washing by hand. It's something Hesselmar says he's still working on.

The research is published in the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Read the full study here.
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