SILVER SPRING, Md, July 20, 2013 – For all those worries about exposure to germs and the excessive hygiene regiments that many mothers undergo because they have be told how delicate their infants immune system is, it turns out a little spit does not hurt. In fact, it actually helps.
A study published in Pediatrics on May 6, 2013, gave parents a surprising reversal to the age old dilemma about what to do with a dirty pacifier. The answer? Clean it – with spit. It turns out that of the children involved in the study, those who had parents who cleaned their pacifier with their own mouth had lower rates of asthma, eczema, and sensitization than those who had parents who did not suck on their child’s pacifier.
The study goes on to say that by using one’s own mouth to clean a pacifier, parents are introducing the microbiota that live in their own mouths and function as part of the immune system to their children, thus stimulating the immune system of the infant. The study concludes that oral cleaning of a child’s pacifier by mouth may reduce the risk of allergy development through this immune system boost.
While this may come as a surprise, it should not come as a shock. A pair of studies released last year showed that a little dirt was good for children, as was playing with animals. The exposure to dirt and animals was shown to have an association with a decrease in asthma and allergies as well. Being outside and in contact with animals that bring germs inside is thought to also boost the immune system by providing exposure to germs early enough in life to create the antibodies to support the immune system.
That being said, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. If you are sick, you do not want to pass along those germs to your child. Also, if the pacifier is visibly covered in dirt, or it fell onto the floor of a public bathroom, it is still probably better to wash it properly. But face it, most adults adhere to some version of the five second rule in their own home for themselves and have lived to tell the tale. So, apply the same rule to your pacifier mouth cleaning. After all, there are some things that you just do not want to put in your mouth.