While my approach in cleaning the pacifier is probably not taken by many, this recently published study I mention focuses not only on how parents cleaned their children's pacifier but also how it may impact the development of eczema and allergies. In examining 184 children, researchers studied what the children were sensitive to, how parents cleaned their pacifiers, and analyzed the bacteria in the children's mouths. At 18 and even 36 months, children whose parents cleaned their pacifiers by sucking on them, showed remarkable protection against eczema and asthma. Yes, you read that correctly. Some parents clean their child's pacifier by sucking it clean then giving it back to the child. Odd as it may sound, this is believed to be the key findings of the study.
Regardless of how "clean" we, as a species, think we are, there are literally billions of bacteria living on and even inside of us. On our skin, in our digestive tracts and in our mouths, bacteria play a very important part in everything from our immune system to the way in which we break down our food. The theory is that by sucking on the pacifier the parent not only cleans visible dirt or debris from it, but they actually place bacteria back onto it. That bacteria is then introduced to the child, exposing the child's immune system to a broader array of bacteria. This ties into the hygiene hypothesis in that many believe children in western societies are "too clean," and because of this, are at an increased risk of developing things like eczema, asthma or allergies.
When we are infants, our bodies' systems are developing. Think of the immune system like a defense mechanism that is untrained. By nature, this system is designed to find things harmful to us and fight them, so at a very early age, the immune system is trying to determine what is dangerous and what can be ignored. The hygiene theory suggests that lack of exposure to a variety of bacteria and germs means the system doesn't get thorough training and often identifies innocuous substances as harmful. "Well, we have to find the shady characters to defend you against, and I don't like the looks of these guys." So when they immune system cannot find real enemies, they start identifying harmless substances as dangerous.
The hygiene hypothesis is just that, a hypothesis, and there are some studies that run counter to this. This piece of research, though, suggests that there is some validity to it. While it is too early to suggest that parents start sucking on their kid's pacifier to clean it, it really can't hurt. Oh, and just for the record, most parents simply rinse the pacifier. I guess I all into that "other" category.
For an abstract of the pacifier study.
Using a combination of IgE blood tests, skin prick tests and close examination of parental history, researchers studied parents and monitored their children for their entire childhood. In collecting and analyzing the data they found that when a mother had asthma or eczema their female children demonstrated a nearly 50% increase in the risk of developing that same condition. The same was not true for male children. However, this a near identical increase in risk was seen when examining paternal conditions and their male offspring. Simply put, if a mother had asthma or eczema, her daughter was 50% more likely to develop the same condition. Her son, saw little to no appreciable increase in risk. If a father had asthma or eczema, his son was 50% more likely to develop the same disease while his daughter was not.
This is important for two reasons. In the more long term, it more clearly defines the genetic link between parents and children when it comes to allergic diseases. The genetics behind conditions like eczema will ultimately be key in preventing them. In the short term, because this link has been more readily defined, it could make it easier in the future to diagnose allergies and eczema. Patient history is a critical factor in determining asthma but even more so for allergies. Blood and skin prick tests can show sensitivities but it is not until a doctor sees the full picture of the patient's medical and family history that a most accurate diagnosis can be given.
To read an abstract of the study.
To view eczema friendly personal care products.
Author: Kevin Gilmore
Go to the Beach - Salt water has been known to work miracles on eczema. Like many mysteries sounding eczema, no one really understands why salt benefits eczema skin, but there are theories the magnesium in salt helps soothe dry skin. A word of caution, although therapeutic for some, salt can be painful to others with eczema, particularly if there are open wounds. If you're beach bound, test the waters and listen to your body.
Spend Time at the Pool - At home chlorine baths are sometimes recommended by physicians to kill bacteria on the surface of eczema skin. Since the pool is essentially one big chlorine bath, it's no wonder that some eczema sufferers find much needed relief poolside.
Time in the Sun - The sun is another natural wonder for eczema. For many, the sun seems to dry up their eczema and leave them flare free, most likely due to the body's spike in vitamin D production after time in the sun. What about sunscreen? This is a tricky one. Applying sunscreen is important to block the damaging UVA and UVB rays, but sunscreen can also reduce the amount of vitamin D the body produces. Although it will be tempting to soak up hours in the sun in hopes of banishing eczema, limit this time (15 minutes) if you don't apply sunscreens and stick to early morning or late afternoon hours when the sun's rays are weaker. For prolonged exposure in the sun, or during peak hours, find a good sunscreen and lather-up. Yes, eczema is a beast, but skin cancer is deadly.
Choose Sunscreen with Caution - Many sunscreens can burn or sting delicate eczema skin. The best bet for choosing a gentle sunscreen is to look for one which creates a physical barrier on your skin, rather than a chemical sunscreen, which destroys the absorbed UVA/UVB rays. The barrier versions usually contain zinc, which is great in treating eczema. Also, read ingredient labels for any known allergies or triggers. And always stay away from fragrance or perfume. Natural, unscented, zinc based sunscreens with as few ingredients as possible, are safest.
Wear SPF Clothing - If you're not the sunscreen type – either can't be bothered or nervous about finding the best one for you, then SPF clothing is the answer. SPF protection is now available in all sorts of clothing – hats, shirts, pants, socks, bathing suits. You name it. Look for clothing made from natural fibers when possible and be sure the SPF rating is from the tight thread weave and not from a chemical added to the fabric.
Moisturize, Moisturize, Moisturize - Spring and summer bring humidity, which helps skin retain its moisture. However, don't be fooled as these months also bring more time under the sun, at the beach, and at the pool, which can all be very drying. So, stick to your daily moisturizing routine and keep an extra bottle of your favorite cream handy to apply after prolonged exposure to the sun, or after a dip in the sea or the pool.
Author Bio: Jennifer is a mother of two. One with severe eczema, food allergies, and asthma. One with mild eczema. She writes about her family's journey with these health conditions at It's an Itchy Little World. She is also the founder/owner of The Eczema Company which provides specialty clothing and natural skincare for children with eczema.
A recent collaborative study between European and British researchers has found an association between exposure to sunlight and the development of food allergies and eczema.
Focusing on Australia, researchers were able to study a wide variety of climates and regions with widely varying amounts of sunlight. In areas with less sunlight (the southern part of the country), they found that children were nearly twice as likely to develop allergies to eggs and peanuts or eczema.
While this research is still in the early stages, it gives some early indications as to what may be behind these increasingly common conditions, and more importantly, how to possibly prevent them in the future.