Sucking your child's dummy to clean it could help boost their immune system

Olivia Petter
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The idea of sucking your child’s dummy might sound a little off-putting, but new research claims that it could benefit your baby’s immune system and help prevent them from developing allergies.

According to a study presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology's annual scientific meeting in Seattle, Washington, parents who suck on their child’s pacifier as a way of cleaning it as opposed to using other methods, such as hand-washing, could be significantly boosting their infant's health for their first year of life.

The researchers believe that the effect is down to parents transferring healthy microbes from their mouths onto their child’s.

Conducted by medical services provider Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, the study involved 128 mothers of infants, who were interviewed over a period of 18 months and asked how they chose to clean their child’s pacifier.

Of those surveyed whose children used a dummy, 72 per cent said they cleaned it via hand-washing and just 12 per cent reported parental pacifier sucking.

The infants whose mothers opted for the latter technique benefited from lower levels of Immunogloblin E (IgE), which is a type of antibody produced by the immune system that puts someone at higher risk of developing allergies and asthma.

"We found that parental pacifier sucking was linked to suppressed IgE levels beginning around 10 months, and continued through 18 months," says allergist Edward Zoratti, co-author of the study.

He added that further research is needed in order to confirm the reason for the link, adding: “we believe the effect may be due to the transfer of health-promoting microbes from the parent's mouth.”

Lead author Eliane Abou-Jaoude added that exposing children particular microorganisms early on can also help boost their immune system.

"We know that exposure to certain microorganisms early in life stimulates development of the immune system and may protect against allergic diseases later," she said.

"Parental pacifier sucking may be an example of a way parents may transfer healthy microorganisms to their young children. Our study indicates an association between parents who suck on their child's pacifier and children with lower IgE levels but does not necessarily mean that pacifier sucking causes lower IgE."