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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sucking on Your Baby's Soother...Good Practice or Bad Habit?


Allergies are very common in industrialized countries. Children in industrialized countries typically live in cleaner environments and are exposed to less bacteria. Researchers believe that exposure to bacteria helps protect children from developing allergies.  Researchers are interested in what families do that may affect the development of their baby’s immune system. Some parents clean their baby’s soother by putting it in their own mouth before giving it back to the child.  Is this healthy for the child?

Research question:  Does a parent sucking on their baby’s soother to clean it have an affect on the development of allergies in the baby?  

What was done:
Researchers in Sweden followed 184 children from birth to 3 years. 80% of the children had at least one parent with allergies putting the children at higher risk for also developing allergies.

Families were interviewed at birth and again 6 months later.

Researchers collected the following information:
·         the baby’s use of soothers (pacifiers)
·         method of cleaning the pacifier (tap water, boiling or the parent putting it in their own mouth)
·         information about the child’s health, diet and medication use for the first year
·         how the baby was born (vaginally or by cesarean section)
·         type and amount of bacteria in the baby’s and mother’s saliva

A pediatric allergist assessed the children at 18 months and at 3 years to see if they had developed environmental or food allergies, eczema or asthma.

Children were divided into 2 groups:
·         Parents who cleaned the pacifier by boiling it or with tap water
·         Parents who cleaned the pacifier by sucking on it before giving it back to the baby

Being born vaginally offered some protection against the development of asthma.

Parents sucking on the baby’s soother also offered some protection against the development of asthma.

These two factors together offered the most protection.

Viral infections, such as colds, did not seem to get passed on to the child by the parents putting the pacifier in their own mouth.

Children whose parents sucked the pacifier were three times less likely to have eczema and asthma at 1.5 years of age, as compared with the children of parents who did not do this.

Children need to be exposed to bacteria to develop a healthy immune system.
Saliva is a good source of viruses and bacteria and sucking on a baby’s soother may be a good way to expose young children to bacteria that is needed.

In the future, will doctors recommend this habit to parents of children at high risk of developing allergies?  More research is still needed to help determine this.

PEDIATRICS, volume 131, number 6, June 2013, Pacifier Cleaning Practices and Risk of Allergy Development. Hesselmar B, Saalman R, Aberg N, Adlerberth I, Wold A.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

"The Allergy Epidemic: Are Filipino Children at Greater Risk?"

Allergies have become increasingly more common in Canada and in the Philippines. Are Filipino children at greater risk? 

Please see Dr. Andrea Fong's article published in the Pilipino Express: 

Information from the study will help researchers compare the rates of allergic diseases in Filipino children with the information they have on the general Winnipeg and Canadian populations. It will also allow them to compare it with the rates of allergic diseases in children in the Philippines where a similar survey has been done. 

It is important that Filipino parents of all children younger than 18 years old, regardless if they have allergies or not, participate in this survey. Enrolment criteria is one or both parents must be of Filipino ancestry and their child(ren) must be under 18 years of age, with or without food allergies.

The survey the can be accessed online at

Filipino children between the ages of 11 - 17 can also fill out the survey themselves by going to 

Thursday, July 11, 2013


The human body is home to about 100 trillion microbes, bacteria, or organisms. Many of these live on our skin and in our intestines (gut).

A lot of these bacteria are harmless and many are very helpful. Only a tiny number are disease causing germs. Ideally, they live together in a fine balance keeping us healthy and preventing the disease causing bacteria from making us sick.

Researchers at the University of Colorado are learning just how important it may be to our overall health to keep these organisms growing and in balance. A healthy balance means a healthy immune system, which helps to prevent infection, chronic diseases including allergy and asthma, and even cancer.

A baby’s balance of bacteria in its gut begins as it passes through the birth canal.The balance changes with breast feeding and the introduction of food. By age 3, the baby’s gut bacteria is similar to the parents.

The environment we live in influences the balance of the microbes in our bodies. For example, people living on a farm seem to have lower rates of asthma and allergies, possibly because they are exposed to more bacteria in their environment. They may have a greater variety of protective bacteria. People living in the same home tend to have a similar bacterial balance. Exposure to certain animals, such as dogs, sometimes affects the balance in a good way.

Sadly, our bacterial balance is changing because of our diet, lifestyle, antibiotic use, and the cleanliness of our environment. Researchers are starting to think that the increase in chronic diseases such as asthma, may begin in the gut. The bacterial imbalance may affect the health of the lining of the intestines, affecting the immune system.

What are some things we can do to restore or keep our bacterial balance in check?

  • Take antibiotics only when needed.
  • Maintain a healthy diet: by avoiding processed foods, eating more whole grains and complex carbohydrates, eating lots of fruits, raw or lightly cooked vegetables, as well as fermented foods such as kimchi, yoghurt and sauerkraut.
  • Be reasonable about cleanliness. Allow children to get dirty, play with pets and play in the great outdoors. Children need to be in contact with all kinds of germs in our environment in order to develop a healthy immune system.
  • Hug, kiss, and get close to your baby. Smothering them with love AND germs will do them good!

Source: Some of my Best Friends are Germs by Michael Pollan, New York Times, May 2013