Study: Sucking on your baby’s pacifier may protect them from allergies

Would you suck on your baby’s pacifier if doing so could help improve their health?

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New research being presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology’s annual meeting in Seattle this week suggests there’s a link between parental sucking on a pacifier and a lower allergic response among young children.

“We interviewed 128 mothers of infants multiple times over a period of 18 months and asked how they cleaned their child’s pacifier,” lead author and allergist Eliane Abou-Jaoude said in a news release Friday.


In the study conducted by Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, scientists “found the children of mothers who sucked on the pacifier had lower IgE levels.” IgE, according to Abou-Jaoude, is an antibody associated with allergic responses in the body. While there are exceptions, a higher IgE level typically indicates a higher risk of having allergies and allergic asthma.

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Of the 128 mothers interviewed, 58 percent said their child currently uses a pacifier. Of that 58 percent, 41 percent reported cleaning by sterilization and 72 percent reported hand-washing. Only 12 percent reported parental pacifier sucking.


Suppressed levels of IgE were evident in babies at around 10 months of age until 18 months.


“We believe the effect may be due to the transfer of health-promoting microbes from the parent's mouth,” study co-author Edward Zoratti said. “It is unclear whether the lower IgE production seen among these children continues into later years.”

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Both Abou-Jaoude and Zoratti note further research is needed, but their findings support a growing body of evidence suggesting exposure to germs at a young age may lead to a healthier immune system.


“Our study indicates an association between parents who suck on their child's pacifier and children with lower IgE levels but does not necessarily mean that pacifier sucking causes lower IgE,” Abou-Jaoude said.


The new study, which hasn’t been peer-reviewed yet, has some limitations.


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Andrew MacGinnitie, clinical director of the Division of Immunology at Boston Children's Hospital, told CNN its small sample size makes it difficult to make major conclusions.


“It's possible that sucking on a pacifier is correlated with other, more important factors that predispose or protect against allergens,” he added. Mothers who suck on their baby’s pacifiers may also “let their kids play in the dirt, or their whole house could be less clean.”

Read the full press release from acaai.org.

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