Does parents’ saliva protect children from allergies?

Toddlers are less likely to develop asthma or develop itchy rashes if their parents “cleaned” their nipples by sucking when they were babies, according to a recent study.

The results do not conclusively prove that this peculiar technique protects children from asthma, eczema or other allergies. But the scientists confirm that it is entirely possible that the transmission of bacteria from the parents’ mouth to the baby can help to increase the bacterial diversity in the child’s digestive tract, which allows the formation of host immunity.

Scientists from the University of Memphis, USA, who have studied asthma and eczema also confirm that these bacteria are important for child development, but are not involved in the new study .

For example, vaginal birth exposes babies to more bacteria from their mothers, which is associated with fewer childhood allergies. But the transmission of microorganisms through pacifiers has never been studied.

For the new study, the researchers recruited pregnant women from a Swedish hospital, following them and their children postpartum through periodic phone calls and examinations over a 3-year period. 184 babies included in the study were particularly prone to allergies, as 80% of them had 1 parent diagnosed with allergies.

When babies are 6 months old, 65 of parents report cleaning pacifiers by sucking. Most also say they rinse pacifiers periodically under running tap water.

Their children are then tested for allergies at 18 and 36 months of age. At the very first visit, 46 of them had eczema and 10 had asthma symptoms. Children aged 18 months whose pacifiers were sucked by their parents were 63% less likely to develop eczema and 88% less likely to develop asthma compared to those whose parents do not use this cleaning technique.

By the time the child was 36 months old, the difference had gone even further in terms of asthma. Another study at a hospital in Gothenburg, Sweden found a 49% lower chance of developing eczema in children whose parents suck their pacifiers.

No association has been found between the particular method of cleaning baby feeding equipment and sensitivity to more widespread allergens, such as cat and dog hair or eggs or peanuts, in either case age.

In another smaller study of 33 babies, researchers found that children whose parents sucked their pacifiers had different types of bacteria in their mouths compared to those whose parents did not use this technique for cleaning.

However, the scientists who conducted the study are of the opinion that it cannot be said with a sufficient degree of certainty that the sucking of pacifiers by parents is a good preventive measure for children against eczema and asthma. Based on this, the researchers believe it is too early to recommend this technique to parents as more research is needed.

For now, parents should know that they can clean their child’s pacifier by simply sucking it and it will certainly not harm their health.
This technique can is necessary sometimes. For example, a parent may carry 2-3 pacifiers or pacifiers with them, but they are all dirty, and the baby is crying at that moment. Then the best thing they can do is to suck the child’s feeding device and give it to him to calm down.

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