Sucking on your infant's pacifier could protect against allergies, research says

Parents, don’t be afraid to suck.

That’s the advice of new research that, while distasteful – maybe literally, depending on where the pacifier’s been dropped – could protect infants from developing allergies.  

The findings are being presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, which is being held through Nov. 19 in Seattle.

Sound gross?

Maybe. But mothers who clean pacifiers by sucking on them have infants with a lower allergic response, according to research from Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. 

Video: Lead researcher discusses findings

The study interviewed 128 mothers over an 18-month period and asked how they cleaned their babies’ pacifiers. Of the 74 whose babies used one, 72 percent said they wash them by hand, 41 percent said they sterilized and 12 percent said spit-cleaned the baby soothers. 

The scientists found that babies whose mothers spit-cleaned pacifiers had lower levels of IgE, an an antibody associated with allergic responses. Elevated IgE levels typically indicate a higher risk of having allergies and allergic asthma.  

“We found that parental pacifier sucking was linked to suppressed IgE levels beginning around 10 months, and continued through 18 months,” said Dr. Edward Zoratti, an allergist and study co-author. “Further research is needed, but we believe the effect may be due to the transfer of health-promoting microbes from the parent’s mouth.”

You follow that? Spreading the germs from a parent’s mouth was found to boost the child’s immune system. 

The research does not prove cause and effect, and it is unclear whether the lower IgE production seen among these children continues into later years.

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