Sucking your baby's pacifier might protect them from allergies, study says


But the emerging theories about microbes and allergy prevention are enough to suggest that, at the very least, it's OK for parents to feel less guilty about our occasionally less-than-sterile habits or not encasing our children in sanitized plastic bubbles.

The same suppression was not seen in children whose mothers reported cleaning pacifiers by other methods.

Allergist Edward Zoratti, MD, ACAAI member and co-author of the study said, "We found that parental pacifier sucking was linked to suppressed IgE levels beginning around 10 months, and continued through 18 months".

Not only did researchers find that infants were less likely to have IgE antibodies against common allergens when their parents sucked their pacifiers, but they were also less likely to develop eczema and asthma by the time they were 18 months old. Researchers compared the babies' IgE levels at birth, six months, and 18 months for each cleaning method.

Of the 58% who reported their child now using a dummy, 12% said the parents sucked the pacifier to clean it.

While more research is needed, and experts caution parents not to conclude that sucking on the pacifier is a sure way to prevent the development of allergies or asthma in their child, the study suggests babies may receive "healthy oral bacteria that will affect the early development of their child's immune system" when a pacifier is cleaned in this way.

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Uncertainty over causation is why Abou-Jaoude isn't recommending that parents start sucking on their children's pacifiers just yet.

"There are lots of commensal or good bacteria in the microbiome that may really help your baby develop a tolerance to it as they age", notes Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson of Seattle Children's Hospital.

It may seem counterintuitive, but parents who clean their baby's pacifiers simply by popping it into their own mouths may be lowering their child's risk of allergies.

"Parental pacifier sucking" is linked to a lower allergic response in kids.

"We found the children of mothers who sucked on the pacifier had lower IgE levels", said lead author Dr. Eliane Abou-Jaoude, from the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit. "But that doesn't mean that if you have high IgE, you're definitely going to have allergies".

Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics endorsed a study which showed that exposing newborns to peanuts in small amounts during their first year drastically lowered their chance of developing an allergy. Additional analyses showed that differences were first observed after about 10 months.