New research shows that sucking on a pacifier before putting it in your baby’s mouth can help strengthen your child’s immune system and lower allergic responses.
However, researchers from the Henry Ford Health System and members of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology (ACAAI) conducted a study with mothers and their infants and found different results.
The researchers presented their findings at the ACAAI Annual Scientific Meeting which took place this week in Seattle, Washington.
“We interviewed 128 mothers of infants multiple times over a period of 18 months and asked how they cleaned their child’s pacifier,” said Eliane Abou-Jaoude, the lead author of the study. “We found the children of mothers who sucked on the pacifier had lower IgE levels.”
IgE stands for immunoglobulin which are antibodies that the immune system produces. As the immune system reacts to an allergen, it produces IgE antibodies which can cause physical allergic reactions in the form of a rash or swelling. IgE levels are a good indicator that a person has an allergy to something.
58 percent of the mothers taking part in the study said their child used a pacifier, and of those 41 percent reported that they cleaned their child’s pacifiers with sterilization.
Washing by hand was the most common way to clean a pacifier according to the interviews and only 12 percent of the mothers admitted to sucking on the pacifier to clean it. The researchers found that infants whose parents did suck on the pacifiers had lower IgE levels.
“We found that parental pacifier sucking was linked to suppressed IgE levels beginning around 10 months, and continued through 18 months,” said Edward Zoratti, a co-author of the study. “Further research is needed, but we believe the effect may be due to the transfer of health-promoting microbes from the parent’s mouth. It is unclear whether the lower IgE production seen among these children continues into later years.”
The researchers theorize that by sucking on the pacifiers, the mothers are transferring helpful microorganisms to their children that can help guard against allergies and improve the 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,” said Abou-Jaoude. “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.”