(WUSA9)-- So let's say you're a harried parent, faced with a crying baby who has dropped his or her 'binky'. You look around, and find no sink or clean water source in which to rinse it. What to do? For many of us (especially once multiple children are in the picture), the answer is popping that pacifier in your own mouth to clean it off.
It sounds rather unsanitary, but a Swedish study published Monday in the journal "Pediatrics" finds infants whose parents sucked on their pacifiers to clean them developed fewer allergies than children whose parents typically washed or boiled them. They also had fewer cases of eczema or asthma.
Scientists say the microbes young children are exposed to play a key role in developing their immune systems; in fact, that early exposures to some dirt and germs can be better than living in a completely 'disinfected' environment. Earlier research has shown babies born vaginally instead of via Cesarean section are exposed to different bacterial 'flora' and may have a lower risk of hay fever, asthma, and food allergies.
But not everyone is in favor of parents sharing their saliva with babies via pacifiers. The American Dental Association discourages the practice, saying it can "transfer cavity-causing bacteria from the parent to baby, increasing the possibility of tooth decay as they grow."
Many pediatricians recommend washing pacifiers in the dishwasher or hot, soapy water once a week. They also advise parents to throw them away if they become cracked or torn, because bacteria can grow in those crevices.