Next time you drop your baby’s pacifier, it may be better to simply suck it to clean it rather than running to the sink to rinse it off with soap and water. A new study done in Sweden shows that infants whose parents suck their pacifiers to clean them are much less likely to develop asthma and allergies or eczema than infants whose parents used other techniques such as washing the pacifier in water. This study looked at pacifier cleaning techniques in parents of 4 month old babies and followed these children till age 3. Kids whose pacifiers had been sucked on by parents were 63% less likely to have eczema at 18 months and 88%less likely to have asthma, compared to the children of parents who didn’t use that cleaning technique. By 3 years of age, the difference for asthma had disappeared, but children whose parents had sucked their pacifiers were still 47% less likely to have eczema. This study was published in the Journal of Pediatrics. For an easy read it’s also on CNN.
This supports the “hygiene hypothesis,” the idea that the cleaner, more “hygienic” urban lifestyle – less exposure to bacteria as infant – makes us more likely to develop asthma and other allergic diseases. Cleaning baby’s pacifier by sucking it may give a little dose of not-so-bad-for-you microbes from your saliva, veering his or her immune system away from developing allergies.