Allergy Protection Via Pacifiers
Allergies are an extremely common health complaint these days. And while some symptoms are just plain annoying, such as a runny nose and itchy eyes, others like restricted airways can be downright life-threatening. It is also a growing problem, with a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, showing that both food and skin allergies have risen in the past 14 years.1 Other than avoiding foods known to trigger the onset of allergies in very young children, there has never been much mainstream medicine thought we could do to prevent them from developing. However, now researchers have found one possibility that just might do the trick: putting your baby's pacifier in your own mouth before handing it over to your child.
A study that took place at Queen Silvia Children's Hospital in Gothenberg, Sweden, determined that there is an association between introducing bacteria from an adult mouth via pacifier into the baby's mouth and a decreased risk of allergies in the baby.2 The participants were 206 Swedish women recruited during their pregnancies. After their children were born, 187 of the infants were accepted into the research. The subjects were selected based on a family history of allergies present in one or both parents. All of the babies continued in the study through 18 months of age, and 174 of them remained with it until they were 36 months old.
The parents of 65 of these children reported using their own saliva to clean off the baby's pacifier. Follow-ups conducted when the children were 18 months old and again at 36 months old involved examinations for allergic conditions such as eczema that tend to initially surface at these young ages. The children whose parents sucked on their pacifiers and transferred saliva were shown at 18 months to be much less likely to develop asthma, eczema, and other allergic reactions than those children whose parents did not use their own saliva on the pacifiers. At 36 months old, the risk of eczema remained lower, but not for other forms of allergies.
The difference was attributed to the transmission of beneficial microbes to the babies' digestive systems, which build colonies of beneficial bacteria throughout the intestinal tract--from mouth to anus--that both optimize and modulate the immune response. To control for the introduction of potentialallergy inducing foods, a sample was taken from all of the infants' saliva when they were 4 months old. At that age, few if any babies have begun eating solid foods. But even at that early stage, the microbes found in the mouths of babies who had a parent lick off their pacifier were noticeably different than those in the mouths of the rest of the babies.
It is possible that different results might be obtained if this study was repeated with a larger, more ethnically varied population since the number of subjects was quite small and not at all diverse. However, the results do appear to be in line with those of research that took place earlier this year at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. That study determined that the bacteria introduced to a newborn during a vaginal delivery and through nursing are different and more beneficial than those babies receive when they are delivered by Cesarean section and fed formula.3 In effect, it's like eating a super powerful yogurt supplement that helps populate the intestinal tract with billions of beneficial bacteria, all of which is great for your natural health. It would appear that there are numerous methods of transmission for helpful bacteria from parent to baby, so this may be another way to ensure the right colonies of microbes flourish within the digestive system. In this sense the medical community is coming round to the alternative point of view that immune systems need to be trained and tested, not coddled and shielded.
And let's face it, chances are pretty good that if you think licking off a dirty pacifier and handing it over to your crying baby is disgusting, you are likely not a parent. (Then again, perhaps you've never kissed anyone romantically either.) As anyone with children can attest, you will do many things you once considered horrible to take care of your little one. In this case, returning to them a licked-clean pacifier might do more than just soothe your baby. Most parents would probably be happy to give baby's pacifier a lick to provide an immune boost great enough to reduce the chances of their child developing any serious allergies.
- 1. Reinberg, Steven. "Food, Skin Allergies on the Rise Among Children: CDC." MSN. 2 May 2013. Accessed 14 May 2013. http://healthyliving.msn.com/diseases/allergies/food-skin-allergies-on-the-rise-among-children-cdc
- 2. Bronson Gray, Barbara. "Want Babies Without Allergies? Try This." WebMD. 6 May 2013. Accessed 13 May 2013. http://www.webmd.com/allergies/news/20130506/want-tots-without-allergies-try-sucking-on-their-pacifiers
- 3. Park, Alice. "Connection between dirty diapers, childhood health." CNN. 14 February 2013. Accessed 14 May 2013. http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/14/health/time-bacteria-children/index.html?hpt=he_c1