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The One Simple (and Some Would Say Gross) Thing You Can Do to Help Prevent Allergies in Your Baby


"Saliva is your friend."

There might be benefits if parents "clean" baby's pacifier with their own mouth instead of water, according to a new study. (Photo: Shutterstock.com)

For a parent, putting a pacifier into one's own mouth before popping it into baby's mouth next might not be the most appetizing thought, but this one action that a recent study says might help prevent allergies in the child. 

The study led by Swedish researchers published in the journal Pediatrics states that the oral microbes transferred from the parent to the child via pacifiers seem to protect against some allergy development. 

"Early establishment of a complex oral microflora might promote healthy maturation of the immune system, thereby counteracting allergy development," University of Gothenburg professor Agnes Wold, who led the study, said in a statement.

Watch KSWB's report on the study:


The study comes just as the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention released a report revealing that the prevalence of food and skin allergies among those under 18 years of age increased from 1997 to 2011. 

(Image: CDC/NCHS, Health Data Interactive, National Health Interview Survey)

Nearly 200 infants were examined for allergies and sensitivities at 18 months and 36 months in the study, with parents recording whether or not they used a pacifier and whether or not they cleaned it. One of these "cleaning" was methods the use of the parents own saliva. 

The allergies this practice was found to potentially help protect against were eczema and asthma. They also found white blood cells associated with allergies to be lower in infants whose parents sucked on their pacifiers.

The study couldn't prove that sucking on the pacifier was the actual mode through which these children became more protected from allergies or not, and did note that children born naturally, as opposed to through a cesarean section, were less likely to see allergies as well. 

The study found that the prevalence of eczema in children born naturally and whose parents sucked pacifiers was 2.5 times lower than those who were delivered by c-section and whose parents did not practice pacifier sucking. 

The study includes that children delivered by c-section might stand the most to gain from parents practicing pacifier sucking as they had some of the benefits of microbe exposure from the birthing experience. 

Some parents might be concerned about passing a respiratory infection onto children, but the study authors found that there was no higher rate of infection in children of parents who sucked on their pacifiers. 

In fact, the study authors believe that transferring of more complex microbial life though the practice might actually serve to "build up resistance to colonization" of more pathogenic bacteria. 

Some of the study's findings are completely contrary to what is suggested by others regarding child care. The New York Times noted a campaign by the New York City Health Department in February which advised parents not to share "utensils or bites of food with your baby,” and expressly said to "use water, not your mouth, to clean off a pacifier.”

But the Times reported Dr. Joel Berg, president of the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, saying ultimately "saliva is your friend."

“I think, like any new study, this is going to be challenged and questioned,” Berg told the Times. “But what it points out pretty clearly is that we are yet to fully discover the many and varied benefits of saliva.”

HealthDay News reported Dr. Ron Ferdman, a pediatric allergist at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, cautioning that the study did have a relatively small sample size and that it focused only on Swedish babies. This is why the study authors too suggest the need for future studies to seek to establish whether this practice pacifier sucking is a safe and effective for protecting against some allergies, as their study seems to suggest. 

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