cleaning dishes

For the past few years, researchers around the world have dedicated their studies to find out why so many childhood allergies are on the rise.

A new study from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests that there may actually be a positive link between handwashed dishes and decreased children's allergies.

The study, published in the journal of Pediatrics, focused on more than 1,000 children between the ages of 7 and 8. In addition to determining if a parent washed dishes by hand or with a dishwasher, researchers noted if children ate fermented foods, and consumed foods that were purchased directly from farms (such as eggs, meat, and unpasteurized milk). Researchers then analyzed each child's development of asthma, eczema, and hay fever.

"Ultimately, the researchers found that children raised in households where dishes were always washed by hand had half the rate of allergies," reports the The New York Times. In fact, 38 percent of children who ate from dishwashed plates had a history of eczema, compared to only 23 percent of children who ate from handwashed plates. "They also discovered that this relationship was amplified if the children also ate fermented foods or if the families bought food directly from local farms."

The correlation between handwashed dishes and fewer allergies is likely due to an idea known as "hygiene hypothesis," which argues that children who live in germ- and bacteria-free environments develop more allergies because a tolerance is never built up.

The AAP study also notes, "Dishwashing by hand might, however, be associated with different lifestyle and socioeconomic factors that could act as cofounders, explaining the lower prevalence of allergy seen in children whose parents use hand dishwashing." Meaning that how children are raised (including their family backgrounds, economic households, etc.) may play a role in how dishes are washed. And further research is needed to confirm if there is a definite cause and effect relationship between these findings.

Caitlin St John is an Editorial Assistant for who splits her time between New York City and her hometown on Long Island. She's a self-proclaimed foodie who loves dancing and anything to do with her baby nephew. Follow her on Twitter:@CAITYstjohn

Image: Daughter helping with dishes via Shutterstock