By Robert Preidt
Researchers interviewed 128 U.S. mothers of infants a number of times over 18 months. Among the moms of babies who used pacifiers, 30 cleaned the pacifier by sterilization, 53 hand-washed the pacifier, and nine cleaned the pacifier by sucking it.
"We found the children of mothers who sucked on the pacifier had lower IgE levels," said lead author Dr. Eliane Abou-Jaoude, from the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit.
IgE is a type of antibody related to allergic responses in the body. Higher IgE levels typically indicate a higher risk of having allergies and allergic asthma. The researchers checked the babies' IgE levels at birth, 6 months and 18 months of age.
"We found that parental pacifier sucking was linked to suppressed IgE levels beginning around 10 months, and continued through 18 months," said study co-author Dr. Edward Zoratti, also from the Henry Ford Health System.
The study was presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) annual meeting, in Seattle. Such research is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
"Further research is needed, but we believe the effect may be due to the transfer of health-promoting microbes from the parent's mouth. It is unclear whether the lower IgE production seen among these children continues into later years," Zoratti said in an ACAAI news release.
"We know that exposure to certain microorganisms early in life stimulates development of the immune system and may protect against allergic diseases later," Abou-Jaoude added.
"Parental pacifier sucking may be an example of a way parents may transfer healthy microorganisms to their young children," she said. "Our study indicates an association between parents who suck on their child's pacifier and children with lower IgE levels, but does not necessarily mean that pacifier sucking causes lower IgE."