In a study carried out at the Sahlgrenska Academy in Gothenburg, scientists tracked pacifier use in a group of 184 children.
The researchers recorded how many of the children used pacifiers in their first six months following birth, as well as how parents cleaned their infants’ pacifiers.
While most parents rinsed pacifiers in running water after it had fallen to the ground, some chose to boil them, while others simply put the pacifiers in their own mouths and sucked it clean before returning it to the baby.
The researchers subsequently found that the children whose parents sucked their pacifiers to clean them were three times less likely to suffer eczema at 18 months of age compared to children who cleaned infants’ pacifiers by other methods.
Parental pacifier sucking also reduced the likelihood of infants developing asthma as well as lower amounts of a white blood cell that usually rises in response to various allergies, the Sahlgrenska researchers found.
The scientists theorized that the transfer of parents’ oral bacteria may help boost infants’ immune systems.
“Early establishment of a complex oral microflora might promote healthy maturation of the immune system, thereby counteracting allergy development,” professor Agnes Wold, who led the study, said in a statement.
The study, published on Monday in the scientific journal Pediatrics, was carried out by paediatricians specializing in allergic diseases, as well as by microbiologists and immunologists.
Researchers also suggested that further studies be carried out to establish if parental pacifier sucking could be a simple and safe method to reduce allergy development in infants and young children.