Forget the Five-Second Rule: Lick that Dropped Pacifier Clean
For years experts have warned parents not to share utensils with their infants, for fear of transmitting oral germs. Now a new study claims a little mommy saliva may be just the right thing for baby. In the study, some parents reported cleaning dropped pacifiers by popping them into their mouths before returning them to baby. At 18 months, children whose parents sucked their dirty pacifiers clean were significantly less likely to be diagnosed with allergies, asthma or eczema than children whose parents approached dropped pacifiers with a more “hygienic” approach, such as rinsing them off under running water, or even boiling them.
The Swedish study of “pacifier cleaning practices” was inspired by the notion that stimulation of the developing immune system by exposure to microbes makes for a more robust immune system. The “hygiene hypothesis” states that children who are not exposed to infectious agents and other germs are more likely to overreact to common proteins, such as weed pollen or house dust. In other words, according the theory, early exposure to germs in the environment helps build a strong immune system that is less susceptible to allergies, asthma and other immune system disorders. Other recent studies have shown that American children are more prone to allergies than immigrant children. Some experts believe this is because American culture embraces the over-sanitization of babyhood.
Critics note that the study was relatively small (there were less than 200 children participating) and does not prove that shared pacifiers help prevent allergies and asthma. They urge caution in interpreting the results. If true, the findings mean that overprotective parents can afford to relax a bit and let the pacifiers fall where they may.
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