Do you clean
off your child’s pacifier by putting it in your mouth, or do you know people
who do? I always thought that this practice was pretty gross. But now a recent
study from Sweden has concluded that licking your child’s pacifier may actually
Parents' saliva = child's allergies lessen?
In short, the
study found a significant decrease in the incidence of allergies, eczema, and
asthma over the first few years of life among children whose parents had
reported putting their children’s pacifiers in their own mouths periodically.
researchers hypothesized that the exposure to their parent’s oral bacteria via
the pacifier may have strengthened the child’s immune system. Your body’s
immune system learns through exposures to different things what to attack versus
what to ignore. Perhaps small, frequent exposures to substances in the parent’s
saliva somehow taught the child’s immune system to be less sensitive to certain
things that might otherwise have triggered an allergic reaction.
Not proved yet
A word of caution,
however: This was a small study and, although it suggests that pacifier sharing may have a protective effect, it
doesn’t prove it. The researchers also only followed the children until they
turned 3. More research is needed.
however, does go along with a study from a few years ago that suggested that
exposure to farm animals in childhood might be protective against asthma and
Are we too sanitary?
So, in this
age of hand sanitizers, sanitizing wipes, and antibacterial soaps (all of which
I admit loving! But my kids do have
allergies!), the study raises the question of whether putting our kids in a
sanitized bubble may have some downsides.
also voiced concern over the results of this study. For years, pediatric
dentists have warned that early exposure to a parent’s oral bacterial can
increase the risk of early cavities in a child.
So, what to
do? I guess if you are in a pinch and need to clean that pacifier, go for it—and
you may or may not be bolstering your child’s immune system. But if you are
sick or think you’re getting sick, then sharing is not advised for sure.
For now, this
study raises some intriguing questions that I hope will be followed up with
more research. Stay tuned…