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Sucking on baby's pacifier may cut allergy risks

Published: Monday, May 6 2013 4:55 p.m. MDT

A recent study from Pediatrics suggests that parents who suck on their child's pacifier to clean it may reduce the risk of allergies.

After studying 184 Swedish babies, researchers concluded that parents' saliva changes the "microbiome," or collection of bacteria that is found on the pacifier. Allergic reactions such as eczema and asthma dramatically decreased in babies from the age of 18-36 months who received the sucked-on pacifier.

According to National Public Radio, such findings have ignited a discussion on whether the lack of exposure to microbes early in life can affect a child's health. Elizabeth Matsui of the Johns Hopkins Children's Center expressed to NPR that children may be growing up too clean.

"We are much less likely to be exposed to organisms in water — parasites, for example — so the idea is there is much less for the immune system to fight off," Matsui said. "So it starts reacting to things that perhaps it should be ignoring."

Dr. Amal Assa'ad of Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center told MedPage Today "that we have to let nature play out a little bit and not be too clean and not be forming artificial barriers in the connection between the mother and the infant and the parents and the infant."

"We have to at some point reach a balance where we're making sure we're not predisposing (infants) to infections at the same time (we're making) sure we're giving them what they were naturally expected to get from the parents … so we end up with a balanced body that doesn't veer towards allergies and doesn't veer towards serious infections and harm," said Assa'ad, who was not involved in the study.

Parents and other medical authorities have had mixed reactions on the new study. Dr. Daliah Wachs tweeted: "Study recommends to suck on your child's pacifier to cut allergy risk. Uh, that's what Claritin is for."

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