Little spit may enhance child's health, doctor says

In a world where we use an abundance of hand sanitizer and alcohol wipes, a new study reveals too much sanitizing may be why more people than ever are suffering from allergies.

Now a new study finds a little spit may enhance a child's health. Four-month-old Ava drops her binky all the time. So should a parent wash and sanitize the pacifier? Or clean it off with saliva?

Ava's mom, Dr. Katie Marks Cogan, an allergy and immunology expert with Aire Medical of Los Angeles, said saliva beats sanitizing.

"When a parent is using their own mouth to clean the pacifier, they're getting their own normal flora, their own microbes, onto the pacifier and then transferring it into the infant," she said.

The latest research recently presented to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology shows a mother's spit, and the bacteria in it, may help prevent allergies in young children.

Marks-Cogan said previous studies show over-sanitizing may result in a child having higher levels of an allergy inducing-protein called IGE and higher levels of IGE indicate an increased likelihood for having allergies and asthma.

In the study, mothers who reported licking their baby's pacifiers had kids with lower levels of this pesky protein.

"I pick the pacifier up all the time off the floor and just sort of dust it off and give it to Ava," said Marks Cogan, "I don't want to be too clean. I mean I talk about the hygiene hypothesis every day in clinic. It's one of the main theories for why allergies are increasing. It's why they're so prevalent in our society today when they weren't years and years ago."

So maybe parents can lick their baby's pacifier, but does that mean the five second rule still applies? Marks-Cogan said maybe not.

"The theory is not encouraging parents to be dropping pacifiers on the floor and rubbing them in dirt or whatnot. It's just strengthening this idea of the hygiene hypothesis and that exposing babies to microbes can be good for their immune system," she said.

While Ava's not going to be eating off the floor anytime soon - her mom just wants to make sure other moms know a little dirt doesn't hurt. It may help.
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