Sucking child's pacifier can lower allergy risk

Marquita Atkinson's 13-month old Skylar has a big personality, and, tests show, some budding allergies

"It was almost like she was allergic to everything: milk, wheat, eggs, peanuts, shrimp," Atkinson says.

She was puzzled, because she's super careful about germs.

If Skylar's pacifier falls on the floor, Atkinson kicks into action.

"I'm wiping it off with a baby wipe," she says.  "I'm taking it to the sink. I'm not a 'put-it-in-my-mouth' person.   I don't want the germs, either."

But at Thanksgiving, Atkinson says a friend told her to stop running to the sink.

Instead, she told Atkinson to pop Skylar's pacifier in her mouth and then give it back to her.

"And, I was, like, 'Gross! Why would I do that,'" she laughs.  "She was like, 'Marquita, just put it in our mouth!  And, I did, but it just felt wrong."

But new research out of Henry Ford Medical Center in Detroit found Atkinson's friend was right.

"It's all about the germs," says Atlanta Allergy and Asthma allergist Dr. Kathleen Sheerin.

As gross as it sounds, Dr. Sheerin says, popping your baby's dirty pacifier in your mouth to clean it off may help stimulate your toddler's immune system, protecting against allergies later in life.

Sheerin says most germs can be good for a child's developing immune system.

"Kids suck their thumb, and crawl on the floor," she says.  "So, enough said."

Researchers interviewed 128 mothers.

Some sterilized their toddler's pacifiers.

Others washed them by hand.

Still others put them in their mouths to clean them off.

The team found the toddlers whose parents sucked on their pacifiers had lower levels of IgE, an antibody that plays a part in the development of allergies.

The findings make sense to Dr. Sheerin.

"For a developing immune system, germs are your friend."

Sheerin's advice is simple.

"Let the pacifier fall on the floor," she says.  "Pick it up, put it in their mouth.  That's what I would do."

Marquita Atkinson says she's trying to loosen up and follow the doctor's advice, although the idea creeps her out.

 "She said germs are good," Atkinson smiles. "But, I'm just not there."