If you have followed recent statistics on childhood health, you know that children are showing an alarming increase in allergies and eczema. The allergies range from life-threatening food allergies to simple respiratory allergies, sometimes associated with asthma and eczema. Little consensus exists on the cause for the increase, though reports have suggested that less fastidious lifestyles are somewhat protective. Children raised on a farm with greater exposure to dirt and animals have less allergies than city dwellers. But if you live in the city, what can you do?
A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics and reported in the NY Times reports a simple practice that is associated with less allergies. Simple: clean your baby's pacifier by sucking it clean, then pop it back in baby's mouth! What if your child does not take a pacifier? The scientists suggested that the benefit may be actually derived from a more relaxed attitude about dirt and germs - so, ease up on the hand sanitizers.
In the study a group of 180 children were followed for 18 months and the risk for allergies and asthma were significantly higher in children with sterilized pacifiers and, less modifiable as a risk factor, those born by Cesarean section rather than by the normal vaginal route, during which they are exposed to more bacteria.
The study will likely be challenged, as some pediatricians believe that oral contagion is hazardous to children. THe study's proponents suggest that kissing - which no one would advise against! - is an equally effective means of spreading oral bacteria. So now, know that sucking the pacifier clean appears to be a good idea, and for those children who don't take a pacifier: more kissing!