Parents who suck on baby's pacifier could cut allergy risk - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Study shows parents who suck on baby's pacifier could cut allergy risk


MADISON (WKOW) -- All parents have their own way to clean a baby's pacifier after it drops to the floor. Moms and dads who put it in their own mouth before giving it back, may be cutting their child's risk of allergies.

While some parents throw pacifiers that fall on the ground directly into the trash, others boil it or rinse it in the sink. Some put it in their own mouth to clean it off and hand it right back to the baby. A new study says that practice may be associated with fewer allergies later on in life.

Dr. Samuel Friedlander, an allergy specialist at the University Hospitals in Cleveland says, "It's really an interesting study, because it supports the theory of the hygiene hypothesis. It's a theory that states that our world is too clean.  The immune system is like an army, and if the army doesn't have anything to fight – like germs – it fights allergens."

Researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy of Göteborg University in Sweden followed 174 babies and their parents for several years, testing them for allergies, including eczema and asthma. They asked the parents how they cleaned off pacifiers. Nearly half of them used their mouths every once in awhile.

When they checked the babies at 18 months old, those whose parents put their pacifiers in their own mouths, were less likely to have asthma and eczema. Researchers conclude this is because parents exposed their babies to bacteria in their saliva, stimulating their children's immune systems. By the time the children were 3 years old, they only had an added protection against eczema, not asthma.

Dr. Friedlander says parents should keep in mind this research just shows an association, not a causation.

Some doctors think the study is interesting, but don't think parents should start sucking on their baby's pacifiers more often. Many doctors agree exposing children to good bacteria and germs in general can help build their immune systems, but there are other ways to do that. And for some parents, sucking on pacifiers could make things worse, if the parent has herpes or cold sores.

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