CNN – A baby’s pacifier falls on the floor. Before the tot’s mother gives it back to her child, you see her clean it with her own saliva.
Don’t be too alarmed, because a new study suggests that a mother’s spit — and the bacteria in it — may help prevent allergies in young children.
The research found lower levels of a troublesome, allergy-causing protein in babies whose mothers reported sucking on their infants’ pacifiers, adding to a growing body of evidence that early exposure to microbes may prevent allergies in children.
“The idea is that the microbes you’re exposed to in infancy can affect your immune system’s development later on in life,” said Dr. Eliane Abou-Jaoude, an allergy fellow with the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit.
Microbial exposure might prevent allergies
Research has shown that people who live near livestock, those who avoid dishwashers and babies born through the microbe-filled vaginal canal — instead of via C-section — are all less likely to develop allergies.
Bacteria swabbing trend for newborns medically in doubt
The new study, which hasn’t been peer-reviewed, is “one more piece of data that early exposure to microbes helps prevent allergies,” said Dr. Andrew MacGinnitie, clinical director of the Division of Immunology at Boston Children’s Hospital.
But the study has weaknesses as well, MacGinnitie said. It has a small sample size, making it difficult to draw too many conclusions, and factors other than the mother’s saliva could have helped develop the children’s immune systems.
“It’s possible that sucking on a pacifier is correlated with other, more important factors that predispose or protect against allergens,” he said, adding that mothers who suck on their children’s pacifiers could also “let their kids play in the dirt, or their whole house could be less clean.” Read more.