Want to Reduce Your Baby’s Allergy Risk? Try Sucking Their Pacifier

Want to Reduce Your Baby’s Allergy Risk? Try Sucking Their Pacifier
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New research shows parents who suck their baby’s pacifier to clean it may be passing healthy microbes that boost their child’s developing immune system.
Health-promoting microbes passed from parents to their children may be one way to reduce allergy risks in the future. Getty Images
Most new moms are willing to do just about anything to keep their babies healthy and safe.
They stock up on hand sanitizer, ban visitors with even the slightest sniffles, and generally go on a warpath against germs and potential contaminants.
So it’s not surprising that plenty of moms would find the idea of cleaning a pacifier with their mouths before handing it back to their baby repulsive — but it turns out that doing just that may actually be good for your little one.
Recent research presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting points to a potential link between the swapping of pacifier spit and a reduction in future allergies.
Over the course of 18 months, 128 mothers of infants were interviewed and asked how they cleaned their children’s pacifiers. The study results found that the children of mothers who sucked the pacifier clean presented with lower levels of lgE, an antibody associated with allergic responses.
The study’s authors acknowledged the need for more research, but proposed the theory that the observed reduced allergic responses may have been the result of “health-promoting microbes” transferred from the parent’s mouth to the pacifier and then on to the baby.
The potential downfalls
However, this research is new and may still need to be taken with a grain of salt.
Dr. Andrew Bernstein, clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine pointed out the relatively small number of participants in the study and the short study timeline.
While the concept shows some promise, it needs more research.
He then told Healthline, “In contrast, there are concerns that when parents suck on their baby’s pacifiers, it may transfer the bacteria that cause cavities, leading to earlier tooth decay.”
A statement from the American Dental Association in 2013 backs up that concern, claiming that licking a pacifier “can potentially transfer cavity-causing bacteria from the parent to baby which may increase the baby’s chance of developing tooth decay as they grow.”
So the jury may still be out on whether or not pacifier licking causes more harm or good. But in the meantime, it’s not the only surprising way to potentially boost a child’s immune system and suppress allergic response.
Exposure benefits
A 2016 study published in Pediatrics found that children who suck their thumbs and bite their nails are less likely to develop allergies.
Frequent contact with livestock has been associated with protective effects as well.
Having pets has also been found to potentially reduce allergic response. And early exposure to roach allergens and rodent dander (yes, you read that right), as well as other household bacteria, also appears to reduce allergies, wheezing, and asthma.
In other words, breaking down the bubbles we may be otherwise inclined to keep our children in might actually help them to be healthier in the long run.
Bernstein acknowledged there are some things parents do with the intention of keeping their children healthy that may actually be achieving the opposite effect.
“There are concerns that washing hands too much and keeping children too protected from bacteria and viruses can lead to increased allergies,” he explained.