Why Cleanliness Is Not Always Next To Godliness

Chalk one up to the hygiene hypothesis

Posted Mar 04, 2015

A study published this week in Pediatrics found that children in households in which dishes are washed by hand—rather than by dishwasher—are much less likely to suffer from allergies

The rate of allergies in the children who ate off dishes that were hand-washed was 43 percent less that in kids whose dishes were cleaned by dishwasher.

This finding—like those finding reduced rates of asthma in kids attending daycare (and exposed to more viral infections, or in kids with pets in the home—is further evidence that early exposure to a less-than-sterile environment may actually protect against allergies and allergy-mediated disease like asthma by shifting the focus of the developing immune system.

The good news is that it’s actually OK to be less-than-fanatical when it comes to keeping your child in a 100 percent sterile environment as far as her health goes. It turns out that a little dirt may go a long way in reducing chronic allergies and/or asthma.

The bad news is that this may open up a whole can of worms if one parent decides to forgo the dishwasher while the other remains adamant about not becoming the dishwasher. But that’s a topic for another column…

About the Author

Dennis Rosen, M.D., is a pediatric pulmonologist and sleep specialist who practices at Boston Children's Hospital.

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