Study: Cleaning baby's pacifier with your saliva may reduce allergy risk
How do you clean your little one's pacifier?
If your baby uses a dummy, you probably know how to clean a pacifier without a doubt. But what if we told you that among these methods, the best one might be cleaning your baby’s pacifier with your saliva? Scientists have found out that parents who lick or suck their kid’s pacifier “clean” may unintentionally be giving their baby an important health benefit.
Cleaning pacifier by mouth may help to lessen your baby’s risk of an allergy, says the study
A new study recently discovered that parents who clean their baby’s pacifiers using their mouths instead of soap and water might lessen the risk of their infant getting allergies.
How do scientists know this? Apparently, babies whose pacifiers were cleaned this way had a key difference to other babies. Unlike other babies, they experienced less immunoglobulin E (IgE) in their blood – which is a measure of allergic responses – within their first 18 months.
During the annual conference held by the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology on November 16, the study team explained that their results might back up past studies which argue that microorganisms from the parents carried by the pacifier help improve the baby’s immune system.
What the study found
Here are some facts about Abou-Jaoude’s study. Scientists:
- recruited 128 mums and children from a larger study and analysed their data.
- took blood samples at three stages: right after birth, when they turned six months old and 18 months old.
- Over 50% of mums confirmed that their children sucked on a pacifier.
- Roughly three-quarters of these mums cleaned pacifiers by hand-washing them, roughly 40% by sterilising them, and about 9% by sucking on them.
After analysing blood samples, scientists found out the total IgE levels of the babies when they were born, and at six-months-old and 18-months-old. Then, they calculated and traced how IgE levels could have increased naturally with time.
In their results, scientists concluded that sterilising or handwashing pacifiers did not affect IgE levels.
However, the babies of mums who cleaned their dummies by sucking on them showed lesser IgE levels in total. Scientists discovered that this difference became statistically meaningful when they were compared to other babies from the age of 10 months onwards.
The trend of lesser IgEs also continued further past the age of 18 months.
Still, Abou-Jaoude cautions parents that more research is needed before parents switch to cleaning pacifiers by mouth. She explains that there wasn’t a clear “cause-effect relationship” and that “there may be unknown potential detrimental effects of pacifier sucking” by parents.
Abou-Jaoude also said that they couldn’t establish “any clinical relevance” nor encourage parents to clean their baby’s pacifier by sucking on it.
A second opinion
Dr Neeta Ogden is an American allergist and immunologist and is a representative of the ACAAI. Although she was not part of the study team, she found their results “without-a-doubt eye-catching”.
Ogden says that the study reflects what is known as “the hygiene hypothesis”. The theory basically states that keeping your babies in an overly-clean environment could lead to allergies as they grow up.
She further adds that it’s only recently scientists are beginning to understand better why this is so. “Stimulation of the immune system through exposure to a diversity of microbes in infancy may lead to diminished allergies later in life,” says Ogden.
However, she did agree with Abou-Jaoude’s warning. She also says that the research was “limited by its small size and short period of time”.
Still, she did say it was “a great and interesting start.” Only time will tell if cleaning pacifiers by sucking is good or not.
Pacifier tips: how to clean pacifier, and more!
How to clean pacifier
- You can sterilise a brand new pacifier by placing it inside boiling water. Keep it there for 5 minutes – after that, it’s ready to be used. Don’t forget to ensure that the pacifier has reached room temperature before letting your baby use it.
- After that, maintain pacifier cleanliness by washing it with hot, soapy water every time your baby uses it.
Other safety precautions when using a pacifier
- Double-check your baby’s pacifier for cracks or tears before giving it to them. If there are any, throw them out and buy a new one.
- Avoid giving your little one a pacifier immediately after they’ve taken some medicine (like antibiotics or vitamins), as some chemicals in medicines may lead to the breakdown of the pacifier itself.
- Don’t ever tie a pacifier around your baby’s neck as it can strangle your baby and lead to death. Instead, you can fasten the pacifier onto your baby with clips that have short ribbons attached to them. You can buy these clips wherever you buy pacifiers. They are safe to use.
- Never give your little one a homemade pacifier from bottle nipples, caps or other materials, as they might become choking hazards.
- Don’t allow your baby to crawl, walk or wander while they’re using a pacifier.
- Only give your little one a pacifier if they need comfort. Giving it to your child all day long can impact how they learn to speak and lead to issues with their teeth.
Parents, we hope that this article on how to clean pacifier and safety tips has been helpful to you. Have any thoughts? Share them in the comments section below!