CNN

Sucking Your Baby’s Pacifier Might Protect Them From Allergies, Study Says

Nov 16, 2018, 9:47 PM | Updated: Jun 7, 2022, 4:01 pm
Sucking your baby's pacifier might protect them from allergies, study says....
Sucking your baby's pacifier might protect them from allergies, study says.

(CNN) — Your baby’s pacifier falls on the floor. Before giving it back to your child, do you wash it in a sink or, perhaps reluctantly, clean it with your own saliva?

Don’t feel too guilty if you chose the latter, because a new study suggests that a mother’s spit — and the bacteria in it — may help prevent allergies in young children.

The research found lower levels of a troublesome, allergy-causing protein in babies whose mothers reported sucking on their infants’ pacifiers, adding to a growing body of evidence that early exposure to microbes may prevent allergies in children.

“The idea is that the microbes you’re exposed to in infancy can affect your immune system’s development later on in life,” said Dr. Eliane Abou-Jaoude, an allergy fellow with the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit. She is presenting her findings this weekend at the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology Annual Scientific Meeting.

Microbial exposure might prevent allergies

Research has shown that people who live near livestock, those who avoid dishwashers and babies born through the microbe-filled vaginal canal — instead of via C-section — are all less likely to develop allergies.

The new study, which hasn’t been peer-reviewed, is “one more piece of data that early exposure to microbes helps prevent allergies,” said Dr. Andrew MacGinnitie, clinical director of the Division of Immunology at Boston Children’s Hospital.

But the study has weaknesses as well, MacGinnitie said. It has a small sample size, making it difficult to draw too many conclusions, and factors other than the mother’s saliva could have helped develop the children’s immune systems.

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

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

“What’s very, very important to realize is that this was not a cause and effect study,” she said. “This is not telling you, if you suck on your child’s pacifier, they will not develop allergies.”

For those who choose to do so, though, MacGinnitie doesn’t see too many risks. “If the kid were sick, he or she could transmit an infection to the mom or dad, but if the kid is well, this would seem to be unlikely,” he said.

And even if the pacifier falls on the floor, he added, “in general, the bacteria and viruses on the floor don’t cause disease.”

A decrease in allergy-linked proteins

To determine allergy risk, researchers looked for a protein linked to allergies. They tracked levels of that protein, the IgE antibody, in 74 infants whose mothers reported using pacifiers. No fathers were included in the research.

Just nine babies had mothers who sucked their children’s binkies clean. But compared with the other children, those nine babies had significantly lower levels of IgE antibody, a trend that began when the children were about 10 months old.

The researchers tracked the babies for only 18 months, making it unclear whether lower IgE levels in infancy would translate to fewer allergies later in life.

“Based on these levels, you can’t really tell what’s going to happen to these kids in the future,” Abou-Jaoude said. “All is we know is, people with allergies, they usually have higher levels of IgE antibodies. But that doesn’t mean that if you have high IgE, you’re definitely going to have allergies.”

Our bodies develop antibodies to fight infections, but MacGinnitie said IgE antibodies are often produced in response to harmless substances — which is why they’re closely associated with allergies.

“Allergies are an inappropriate response by our immune system to see something that’s innocuous as dangerous,” he said, leading to congestion, hives and other common symptoms.

Reducing your child’s allergy risk

Abou-Jaoude’s team looked at total IgE antibody levels, but researchers can also test for allergen-specific IgE levels, looking at how sensitive a child might be to particular substances, like eggs or dogs.

A 2013 study in Sweden did just that. 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.

“If I understand the paper and the figure correct, [the new study] found lower IgE levels in children whose parents reported sucking on their pacifier, and that finding supports our results,” said Dr. Bill Hesselmar, an associate professor in pediatrics at the University of Gothenburg who authored that study.

In both cases, Hesselmar says, sucking on a baby’s pacifier might have transferred “microbes that could stimulate the immune system so that tolerance develops instead of allergy.”

Still, there are more practical — and perhaps more pleasant — ways to prevent allergies in children. MacGinnitie said that early exposure to some foods, for example, may protect against allergies.

Studies have shown that “kids introduced to peanuts in the first year of life have a much lower chance of developing a peanut allergy,” he said, and the American Academy of Pediatrics agrees. In 2017, the group endorsed guidelines recommending that infants at high risk for allergies start eating peanuts as early as 4 to 6 months of age.

Children who grow up with pets also tend to have a lower allergy risk, MacGinnitie said, but that might be explained by genetics. In other words, allergy-free parents who own pets might just give birth to allergy-free kids.

“Living on a small farm also probably helps,” MacGinnitie joked. But he added that, for most parents, “that’s probably not realistic.”

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2018 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

CNN

(FILES) This file aerial shot taken on September 15, 2010 shows the disputed islands known as Senka...
Junko Ogura and Simone McCarthy, CNN

Japan says Chinese coast guard ships in longest violation of its territorial waters in a decade

Two Chinese coast guard ships navigated Japan's territorial waters near a chain of disputed islands for more than 64 hours this week
1 day ago
police, crime, police tape...
Tina Burnside and Jarrod Wardwell, CNN

3 children dead after 911 caller said mother tried to stab them during a house fire in Georgia

Three children are dead and their mother is facing murder charges after allegedly trying to stab her children during a house fire in Georgia.
1 day ago
A passenger looks through a window at Dubai International Airport on January 01, 2022 in Dubai, UAE...
Chuck Johnston, CNN

More than 700 flights canceled Sunday

At least 730 flights were canceled across the United States on Sunday evening, according to the flight-tracking website FlightAware
1 day ago
Officers respond to the scene after a vehicle fleeing police struck five people in Brooklyn, killin...
Andy Rose and Kiely Westhoff, CNN

Vehicle fleeing police kills a grandmother and injures 4 people, including an 8-year-old

A grandmother was killed and an 8-year-old boy was among four others injured when they were struck by a vehicle fleeing New York police Saturday night.
1 day ago
South African authorities are investigating the deaths of at least 17 people at a tavern in East Lo...
CNN's Teele Rebane, Eyad Kourdi and Reuters

Children as young as 13 among 22 killed in South African tavern incident

South Africa was on Sunday mourning the deaths of 22 young people -- some of them as young as 13 -- at a tavern in East London.
1 day ago
The eastern Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk is now "completely under Russian occupation," according...
Tim Lister, Oleksandra Ochman, Olga Voitovych and Jeevan Ravindran, CNN

Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk now ‘completely under Russian occupation’ after months of fighting

The eastern Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk is "completely under Russian occupation," the city's head of military administration said Saturday, following months of grueling and bloody fighting.
2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...
1-800-GOT-JUNK?

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
Sucking Your Baby’s Pacifier Might Protect Them From Allergies, Study Says