Start watching
Tending Nature poster 2021

Tending Nature

Start watching

Southland Sessions

Start watching

Earth Focus

Start watching

Reporter Roundup

Start watching

City Rising

Start watching

Lost LA

Start watching
Your donation supports our high-quality, inspiring and commercial-free programming.
Support Icon
Learn about the many ways to support KCET.
Support Icon
Contact our Leadership, Advancement, Membership and Special Events teams.

Washing Dishes by Hand Can Help Reduce the Risk of Allergies

Watch how researchers are working to make agricultural communities safer for children and families in this four-minute California Matters with Mark Bittman video.

Good news for those without a dishwasher: a new study has found that parents who wash their dishes by hand, rather than in a dishwasher, may unwittingly be reducing their children's risk of developing allergies.

The paper, published in the medical journal Pediatrics, examined an idea called the hygiene hypothesis. The theory suggests excessive cleanliness is the culprit behind America's alarmingly increasing allergies to food, pollen, and other environmental triggers.

Researchers reported that kids who grew up in households where dishes were hand-washed were less likely to suffer from eczema, asthma, or hay fever, as opposed to kids whose dishes were sanitized in a dishwasher.

A possible reason for this? Hand-washing still leaves some bacteria on the dish or utensil. The constant exposure to germs means immune systems are stimulated in early childhood, thereby reducing the risk of allergies developing in later life (by as much as half).

The study, which included 1,029 Swedish children aged 7 to 8, also investigated other behaviors, like whether families followed a "traditional foods" diet of farm-fresh eggs and meat, unpasteurized milk, and fermented foods (which have beneficial bacteria). After controlling for several factors such as day care attendance, parental history of allergies, and whether or not the families had pets, researchers found that only 19% of children from these "traditional" households reported suffering from allergies, versus 46% of children whose dishes were always sterilized in the dishwasher and whose food never came straight from a farm.

The findings suggest that increasing kids' exposure to microbes through the "less efficient" method of hand-washing, as well as feeding them fermented and farm foods teeming with bacteria, can actually be a good thing for their health.

... As if parents needed another reason to get their kids to do the dishes.

Support Provided By
Support Provided By
Read More
Two rows of colorfully lit Christmas trees at Hikari – A Festival of Lights at Tanaka Farms. | Sandi Hemmerlein

Six SoCal Holiday Lights Drive-Thrus and Drive-Bys for 2020

Haul out the holly and fill up the stockings. We need a little Christmas! Here are some of the best drive-thru holiday experiences in Southern California.
Ballona Lagoon “Lighthouse” Bridge | Sandi Hemmerlein

Where to Explore 5 of L.A.’s Great Footbridges

Here’s where to find five of L.A.’s most scenic bridge crossings — and why they’re fascinating destinations in their own right.
Malibu Wine Hikes take visitors through the Semler family’s Saddlerock Ranch vineyards | Sandi Hemmerlein

13 SoCal Open-Air Adventures That Are Off the Beaten Path

Looking for outdoor options beyond your local park or playground? Here’s a guide to going off the beaten path with some of the best open-air attractions SoCal has to offer.