Could Baby Pacifiers Help Reduce The Chances of Allergies?

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Could Baby Pacifiers Help Reduce The Chances of Allergies?

October 3, 2013

The internet is full weird and wonderful tips of things you can try to boost the health of your kids.

Sometimes it can be hard to distinguish web hype from science fact.

Could this be the case with an idea slowly gaining popularity that sucking your baby’s pacifier could help reduce the risk of allergies in children? Well, yes and no.

The idea that sucking pacifiers can help reduce allergies stems from a widely reported study conducted in Gothenburg, Sweden.

The team of researchers looked at allergy sensitization in children at 18 months and 36 months, while also taking a note of parents’ pacifier cleaning practices at six months.

The study found that after 18 months children who had their pacifiers cleaned by their parents sucking it were 37 per cent less likely to have eczema and 12 per cent less likely to have asthma than infants whose parents cleaned pacifiers by boiling or rinsing.

After 36 months infants were 51 per cent less likely to have eczema although there was no significant difference for other conditions.

Researchers speculated that parents sucking their child’s pacifier could lessen the risk of allergy development through microbes transferred via the saliva.

The findings are fascinating, but it is worth pausing for thought before we all start sucking our kids’ pacifiers.

For instance, if the study only found a significant decline in relation to eczema, does this tell us anything about other allergies?

According to Bill Hesselmar from the University of Gothenburg team, the research can tell us about more than just eczema.

Speaking to NPR, Hesselmar said: “Eczema is the best disease to choose [as a marker] if you want to see if a young child is becoming allergic”.

Likewise there is the possibility that something else is at work here. The paper notes that babies whose parents sucked their pacifier were also much less likely to have been born by caesarian section. However this does not exclude the possibility that both the type of birth and parental pacifier sucking could have independent impacts on eczema.

But there is one definite factor which means we should tread carefully before classing pacifier sucking as a hallmark of good parenting: the size of the study.

Since we are still talking about a study of 184 babies, there may yet be more work that needs doing before we can draw any firm conclusions.

The team acknowledges that the size of the study could be a “potential weakness” and stress that “it is important to emphasize the need to re-evaluate the findings from the study in larger studies.”

Since often quite nuanced scientific finds are condensed down into short headline summaries, it can be easy to miss the point that this is about the need for further research before we reach rigid conclusions.

So while sucking your child’s pacifier could well turn out to be a beneficial move, it seems that we may not know for sure until some time after your baby still needs one.

 

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Source:

http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/health/2013/05/06/could-sucking-your-babys-pacifier-cut-allergy-risk/

http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2013/05/06/180817114/parents-saliva-on-pacifiers-could-ward-off-babys-allergies

http://www.medpagetoday.com/AllergyImmunology/Allergy/38888

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