Study from Sweden shows parents licking dirty pacifiers can help babies avoid allergies, asthma

Doctor encourages caution

INDIANAPOLIS - A new study suggests a parental practice that's sure to make germaphobes cringe could actually be beneficial for growing babies.

Since the invention of pacifiers, some parents have opted to clean the comfort items after they were dropped on the ground by putting it in their mouth and then giving in back to their babies.

While some have called the solution disgusting, a small study in Sweden found the children of parents who use their own saliva to clean the pacifiers were less likely to suffer from allergies, asthma and eczema as toddlers.

"I think it's one more piece of evidence that seems to be part of this hygiene hypothesis that the reason that children are having more allergies and asthma is because they live in a cleaner environment," said Dr. Mark Holberich an allergist at St. Vincent Hospital.

Holberich has published research showing that Amish children in Indiana, who often have early exposure to environmental allergens and germs, typically don't suffer from allergies.

"Is too clean bad? Is too clean good? We're learning more each year," he said.

Parents are split on the practice.

"I think that's nasty. I think that you should run them under water," said Daina Joslin.

"If we were just at home, I would pick it up and just clean it off with my mouth, and go ahead and give it to her," said Jennifer Mezelin.

"If I knew it would help with allergies, I probably would have done it," said Stephanie Pickens.

Still, with the threat of infection, Holberich stressed that hand washing and immunizations remain critical. He said he would not advise parents to change their routine based on the small study.

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