Parental Sucking on Infant Pacifiers could Reduce Allergies

babyWait a minute. I’m certain I was taught in medical school that the mouth is teaming with bacteria and a human bite wound can be a serious issue because of the bacteria involved. I cringe when people “cleanse” their contacts in their mouth before placing them back in their eyes. An article published in the June issue of Pediatrics has physicians thinking differently about those microbes. A Swedish group looked at the incidence of asthma, eczema and allergic sensitization and found they were all reduced if the parents had a practice of cleaning an infant’s pacifier with their own mouth. 184 children were examined at 18 and 36 months for food and inhalant allergies; their parents were interviewed when the children were six months of age as to their pacifier practices. They also checked the “microbiota” of the infant saliva and found them to be different. The theory is that immune stimulation from the parents’ microbes could reduce the risk of developing allergies.

This article relates to the “hygiene hypothesis” (an assertion that we’ve become too clean and overuse hand sanitizer and antibiotics rather than allowing our immune systems be fully challenged). Exposure to bacterial cell parts either through farms or pets can help suppress the part of the immune system responsible for allergy development.

So perhaps as parents we should lighten up. If exiting a store has become a Cirque du Soleil act in order to escape without touching a surface, this may be your first step in letting go of those OCD tendencies. Pick up that dropped pacifier and put it in your mouth before giving it back to your baby!

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Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to create a doctor-patient relationship with any reader. If you need personalized medical advice, contact your primary care physician or other physician in your community.

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