Thursday, May 9th, 2013
Every mother has been faced with what to do with a baby’s pacifier that has been tossed onto the floor. Do you rinse? Wash carefully with hot water? Or, do you just suck it for a moment to clear away the debris, and hand it back to your baby? A new study published in the journal Pediatrics has found that the latter method may actually have some health benefits. The New York Times has more:
In a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, scientists report that infants whose parents sucked on their pacifiers to clean them developed fewer allergies than children whose parents typically rinsed or boiled them. They also had lower rates of eczema, fewer signs of asthma and smaller amounts of a type of white blood cell that rises in response to allergies and other disorders.
The findings add to growing evidence that some degree of exposure to germs at an early age benefits children, and that microbial deprivation might backfire, preventing the immune system from developing a tolerance to trivial threats.
The study, carried out in Sweden, could not prove that the pacifiers laden with parents’ saliva were the direct cause of the reduced allergies. The practice may be a marker for parents who are generally more relaxed about shielding their children from dirt and germs, said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases expert at Vanderbilt University who was not involved in the research.
“It’s a very interesting study that adds to this idea that a certain kind of interaction with the microbial environment is actually a good thing for infants and children,” he said. “I wonder if the parents that cleaned the pacifiers orally were just more accepting of the old saying that you’ve got to eat a peck of dirt. Maybe they just had a less ‘disinfected’ environment in their homes.”
Studies show that the microbial world in which a child is reared plays a role in allergy development, seemingly from birth. Babies delivered vaginally accumulate markedly different bacteria on their skin and in their guts than babies delivered by Caesarean section, and that in turn has been linked in studies to a lower risk of hay fever, asthma and food allergies. But whether a mother who puts a child’s pacifier in her mouth or feeds the child with her own spoon might be providing similar protection is something that had not been closely studied, said Dr. Bill Hesselmar, the lead author of the study.
In fact, health officials routinely discourage such habits, saying they promote tooth decay by transferring cavity-causing bacteria from a parent’s mouth to the child’s. In February, the New York City health department started a subway ad campaign warning parents of the risk. “Don’t share utensils or bites of food with your baby,” the ads say. “Use water, not your mouth, to clean off a pacifier.”
Despite the study’s findings, parents should exercise common sense when cleaning pacifiers that have been dropped into very germ-laden situations, such as a garbage can or bathroom floor.
Image: Red pacifier, via Shutterstock
Monday, May 6th, 2013
As many as one in 20 American kids are affected by either skin or respiratory allergies, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found. CNN.com has more:
Food allergy prevalence increased from 3.4% to 5.1% between 1997 and 2011, while skin allergy prevalence more than doubled in the same time period. That means 1 in every 20 children will develop a food allergy and 1 in every 8 children will have a skin allergy. According to the CDC, respiratory allergies are still the most common for children younger than 18.
The new report, which looked at data from the National Health Interview Survey, found that skin allergies decreased with age, while respiratory allergies increased as children got older.
Both food and respiratory allergies also increased with income level, meaning richer families had higher rates of childhood allergies. Hispanic children had lower rates than non-Hispanic white and black children in the survey. The report did not look into the potential reasons for this.
Scientists are still trying to figure out where allergies come from, and why they’re on the rise in the United States. Internal bacteria, genetics and environment may all play a role, says Dr. Edward Zoratti, head of the allergy and immunology division at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.
Image: Girl scratching her arm, via Shutterstock
Friday, May 3rd, 2013
American-born children have a higher risk of developing allergies to foods or airborne particles like pollen or dust, a new study has found. Though researchers have not identified a definitive reason for the findings, The New York Times reports that the risk is elevated across a number of variables:
After adjusting for age, race, sex, ethnicity and other variables, the scientists found that children born outside the United States were 48 percent less likely to suffer from allergic diseases like asthma, eczema, hay fever and food allergies. The researchers reported their findings in an online article Monday in JAMA Pediatrics.
Children with American-born parents had higher rates of allergies than children with foreign-born parents, and having two foreign-born parents reduced the risk for allergy even more than having one.
Just living in the United States appeared to increase the risk — foreign-born children who lived in the United States for 10 years or more were more than three times as likely to have allergies as those who lived here for two years or less.
Image: Child with hay fever, via Shutterstock
Friday, July 20th, 2012
A new treatment is emerging for the treatment–even reversal–of childhood food allergies; giving kids small amounts of problem foods to train their immune systems to accept that the foods are not dangerous. The Associated Press reports on the latest example of this approach, which has been shown to reverse egg allergies in children:
In the best test of this yet, about a dozen kids were able to overcome allergies to eggs, one of the most ubiquitous foods, lurking in everything from pasta and veggie burgers to mayonnaise and even marshmallows. Some of the same doctors used a similar approach on several kids with peanut allergies a few years ago.
Don’t try this yourself, though. It takes special products, a year or more and close supervision because severe reactions remain a risk, say doctors involved in the study, published in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine.
‘‘This experimental therapy can safely be done only by properly trained physicians,’’ says a statement from Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the federal agency that sponsored the study.
It didn’t work for everyone, and some dropped out of the study because of allergic reactions. But the results ‘‘really do show there is promise for future treatment’’ and should be tested now in a wider group of kids, said the study’s leader, Dr. A. Wesley Burks, pediatrics chief at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.
More than 2 percent of young children have egg allergies, suffering wheezing and tight throats or even life-threatening reactions if they eat any egg, Burks said. Many will outgrow this by age 4 or 5, and more will by the time they are teens, but 10 to 20 percent never do.
Image: Eggs, via Shutterstock.
Tuesday, July 10th, 2012
Having a dog or cat in the house when children are less than a year old may mean the kids face fewer health problems later in their childhoods, a new study conducted in Finland has found–with dogs offering greater potential protection than cats. CNN.com has more:
The study, published in next month’s issue of Pediatrics, followed 397 children from before birth to age 1, and noted the number of times they had contact with either a dog or cat each week.
Although it’s a pretty common thing to see newborns with minor respiratory issues and ear infections, researchers found those babies who had more interaction with animals seemed to have fewer of these problems and needed less medication, even when they were sick.
Even though babies living with cats were still protected, their protection was not as strong as those babies who lived around dogs. And kids living in homes in which dogs went in and out of the house more often seemed to have the lowest risk of infections.
Although doctors acknowledge more research is needed, they say there’s something about animals that affect an infant’s immune system which can protect against certain childhood infections.
Image: Baby with dog, via Shutterstock.