Exposing children to household microbiomes doesn’t mean allowing them to roll around in dirt or never shower, according to Dr. Jordan S. Orange, chief of immunology, allergy and rheumatology at Texas Children’s Hospital (via NBC News). Parents should be weighing their decisions with mindfulness and reasonable logic, especially since there’s evidence to support fewer respiratory illnesses among people who use hand sanitizers, said Orange.
What it could mean is that you don’t have to be overly cautious about maintaining a perfectly sterile environment. As shared by Johns Hopkins professor and chair of Environmental Health and Engineering, Marsha Wills-Karp, “So one thing I would say is sanitizing every surface in your home to an extreme is probably not a good thing. Our research team showed in animals that sterile environments don’t allow the immune system to develop at all.
It is also important to note that the kids in the 2015 study probably weren’t the ones doing the dishes at home, per TIME. How they develop a stronger immunity may have to do with the general level of cleanliness they’re exposed to while eating in their households. Bacteria (and allergies) aside, there’s yet another unexpected health benefit to hand washing your dirty dishes.