The Scoop on Pacifiers and Germs (and Yes, It's Worse than You Thought)Meredith Carroll
Maybe you’re one of those parents who sanitizes the pacifier every time it falls from your baby or toddler’s mouth to the floor. Or maybe you’re a more laid-back parent who feels as if a little bacteria goes a long way towards building up a small child’s immune system, and therefore lets the pacifier go back into the mouth without so much as rinsing or wiping it off.
If you are among the latter, you could be doing your child a world of harm.
According to a new study presented at the 2012 American Society for Clinical Pathology Annual Meeting (via Yahoo News), pacifiers “may expose babies to alarmingly high levels of dangerous bacteria, including antibiotic resistant Klebsiella, which causes pneumonia, and MRSA staph A superbugs that cause hard-to-treat skin and other infections.”
“Parents wouldn’t eat with a dirty fork, but they often think nothing of picking a pacifier up off the floor at a mall and popping it back in their baby’s mouth,” said study coauthor R. Tom Glass, DDS, Ph.D., professor of Forensic Sciences, Pathology, and Dental Medicine at Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to Yahoo News. “It’s important for parents to realize pacifiers are easily contaminated—and to do a better job of keeping them clean in order to protect their baby’s health.”
Pacifiers are often credited with helping to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), and are used by the vast majority of babies early on in life also because of their soothing effect. But the risk of dirty pacifiers is not to be ignored.
According to Yahoo News:
A contaminated pacifier grows a biofilm, a slimy, glue-like coating that makes bacteria become increasingly resistant to both antibiotics and detergent. Once a biofilm forms, it can change the balance of microbes in a baby’s mouth and spark inflammation, boosting risk for ear infections and GI problems, including colic, the researchers report. Some pathogens found on pacifiers in the study have also been linked to heart disease, metabolic syndrome, allergies and asthma.
Of course, some amount of bacteria is healthy, and just harboring staph germs doesn’t mean an infection will necessarily develop — especially if it doesn’t penetrate the skin or tissue.
Effective ways to sanitize pacifiers include washing them in soap and water or soaking them in denture-cleaning solution. Experts also recommend replacing pacifiers every two weeks and after an illness so they don’t “grow a disease-causing biofilm.”
Bottom line: every time (every. single. time.) a pacifier falls to the floor — wash it or have another one handy as a replacement until you can.
Photo credit: iStock