Cleaning pacifiers with chemical antiseptic may increase the likelihood of infant food allergy at 1 year

Over the years we have learned that exposure to a healthy microbiome (set of “bugs”) is important for the development of the immune system, and for the immune system to be able to ward off allergies.

A study from Australia has now shown that amongst babies using pacifiers, use of a chemical disinfectant cleaner was associated with an 3.56 times higher odds of developing a food allergy. Using pacifiers without an antiseptic was not associated with food allergies.

A possible mechanism is that the chemicals in the disinfectant could alter the “healthy” bugs in the mouth which play a role in maintaining a healthy immune system.

Pacifier use does have many advantages: it is soothing for the baby and has been shown to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.

But perhaps we ought to learn more about the best methods to sterilise pacifiers, which is recommended in the first 6 months of life, and encourage boiling or steaming rather than chemical use.

Source: Victoria Soriano and colleagues, Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology May 2021