Pacifier saliva could inadvertently help prevent allergies

Not sure what to clean that dirty pacifier with when it falls out of your baby’s mouth and onto the ground? Follow the “three-second rule”? Rinse it with tap water? Plunge it in boiling water?

Actually, your best bet may be to use something else: your saliva.

A study published in this week’s issue of the journal Pediatrics shows that a parent’s saliva could ward off allergies in babies. Researchers at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden studied 184 babies who used pacifiers and asked their parents about their pacifier cleaning techniques.

Most of them said they rinsed the pacifier in water, but some had another method. They put it in their own mouths. Apparently, sucking on it and giving it back to baby is a fairly common way to clean pacifiers.

The researchers looked into whether there were differences between the kids whose parents used saliva to clean pacifiers and those who did not. The infants with the saliva-“washed” pacifiers had less eczema and were less likely to develop asthma.

Researchers say that’s because those parents exposed their children to harmless bacteria that everyone already carries in their mouths. These bacteria stimulate the baby’s immune system, which reduces the chance of developing allergies.

In other words, children can be too clean. Those who don’t have enough variety in their body’s bacteria are at greater risk of developing allergies. So parents, pop in those pacifiers!

–Stephanie Doyle

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