The internet is awash with very slobbery reports that parents who clean their baby’s dummy by popping it in their own mouth might be providing their child with some vital protection against allergies. So what’s the story?
To spit or not to spit?
Well, it’s suggested that when a parent ‘spit cleans’ a dummy and then returns it to their baby’s mouth, the microbes in mum or dad’s saliva may be fostering immunity, warding off allergies and contributing to a child’s wellbeing in the long term.
To arrive at this finding, researchers in the US tracked 74 babies looking for a particular protein – called the IgE antibody – in their system. This protein is thought to be linked to allergies.
All the babies studied used dummies, but only nine of them had parents who routinely sucked the dummies to clean them. It was found that those nine babies had much lower levels of the IgE antibody in their system.
“The idea is that the microbes you’re exposed to in infancy can affect your immune system’s development later on in life,” allergy fellow with Detroit’s Henry Ford Health System, Dr Eliane Abou-Jaoude explained of her study.
Microbes for the win
Obviously the study is a small one – and has apparently not been peer-reviewed – but it’s further science-based intel into how we can grow healthier kids and possibly protect them from allergies.
“What’s very, very important to realise is that this was not a cause and effect study. This is not telling you, if you suck on your child’s pacifier, they will not develop allergies,” Dr Abou-Jaoude said.
It’s still a notable finding though, and “one more piece of data that early exposure to microbes helps prevent allergies,” clinical director of the Division of Immunology at Boston Children’s Hospital, Dr Andrew MacGinnitie, told CNN.
The jury is still out
The study only tracked these babies until they were 18 months old, and the jury is still out on where this piece of the allergy puzzle fits in.
“Based on these levels, you can’t really tell what’s going to happen to these kids in the future,” Dr Abou-Jaoude explained.
“All is we know is, people with allergies, they usually have higher levels of IgE antibodies. But that doesn’t mean that if you have high IgE, you’re definitely going to have allergies.”
So to sum up, sucking your baby’s dummy clean might help protect your child from future allergies. Or it might not. There’s certainly no harm in it if you are both well and not battling any illness, experts say.
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