Hand-Washing Dishes Can Prevent Allergies, Study Reveals

April 30, 2015

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. hand-wash / ˈhændˈwɒʃ, -ˈwɔʃ / (v.) – to wash something using one’s hands instead of a machine
Example: Our washing machine stopped working so I had to hand-wash my clothes.

2. survey / sərˈveɪ / (v.) – to get information about something by asking a number of people
Example: The researchers surveyed 100 people about their eating habits.

3. hygiene / ˈhaɪ dʒin / (n.) – the things or activities that a person does to stay healthy
Example: He has excellent oral health because of his proper oral hygiene.

4. germ / dʒɜrm / (n.) – a microorganism that causes a disease
Example: I sprayed disinfectant to kill the germs on my table.

5. susceptible /səˈsɛp tə bəl / (adj.) – can be easily affected by something
Example: He is susceptible to colds.


Read the text below.
A recent study claims that hand-washing dishes can prevent children from having allergies, eczema, and asthma.

Swedish doctor Bill Hesselmar and his team conducted the study to determine the relationship between household practices, like dishwashing methods, and the development of allergies, eczema, and asthma. The team surveyed the parents and guardians of 1,029 Swedish children.

The survey asked about cases of asthma, eczema, and allergies among the children. It also asked about the eating habits of the participants, which included how they wash their dishes.

The team found that families who machine-wash their dishes are more likely to have allergies. In fact, around 12.2% of the children from families who machine-wash their dishes had allergies. On the other hand, only 10.3% of the children whose families hand-wash their dishes showed the same history.  

Results also showed that among children in families who hand-wash their dishes, 23% had eczema, while 1.7% had asthma. Among children whose families machine-wash their dishes, 38% had eczema and 7.3% had asthma.

Results of this study support the “hygiene hypothesis.” This hypothesis states that early exposure to allergens and germs can improve the body’s immune system, making a person less likely to develop allergies. This is because being exposed to germs early on allows the immune system to identify which substances are harmful and which are not. A very clean and allergen-free environment in early life, on the other hand, makes a person more susceptible to allergies. 

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         What is your opinion about the hygiene hypothesis? Please discuss briefly.
·         How else do you think allergies can be prevented?

Discussion B

·         What can we do to further boost or improve our immune system? Please discuss your answer.
·         In your opinion, what habits or activities harm a person’s immune system?

April 30, 2015