Parents who clean dummies with sprays and wipes could increase the chances of their child developing food allergies, researchers say.
The findings were released by Barwon Health, a health care provider in Geelong, south-west of Melbourne, last Tuesday following a study of 787 infants from birth to the age of one.
Scientists from the Barwon Infant Study found that six-month-old babies who were given dummies sterilised with chemical-based cleaning agents were four times more likely to develop food allergies by their first birthday.
Chemical-based sanitisers are often sold as dummy cleaners and wipes.
Parents who clean dummies with sprays and wipes could increase their child’s chance of developing food allergies (stock image)
Children whose dummies were boiled in water, rinsed under a tap or not washed at all had no increased risk of developing allergies, according to Professor Anne-Louise Ponsonby from the Florey Institute of Neuro Science and Mental Health.
‘In 2018, dummy use by parents cleaning with their own mouths was actually associated with reduced risk of food allergy,’ she told 9 News.
Professor Ponsonby also explained that experts do not know if the allergies are a direct effect of the chemicals themselves, or if they interfere with gut bacteria and weaken the youngsters’ immune systems.
Experts said keeping dummies clean is important, but stressed the strong link between antiseptics and allergic reactions.
Professor Anne-Louise Ponsonby from the Florey Institute of Neuro Science and Mental Health (pictured) said children whose dummies were cleaned under a tap had no increased risk of allergies
‘This research should not discourage the cleaning of dummies, as this is a vital step in keeping a child safe from the more immediate risk of infectious diseases,’ Centre of Food and Allergy Research investigator Victoria Soriano said.
‘There is also no evidence from this study that cleaning dummies by other methods is harmful.’
The findings, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, will be reviewed by the the college of paediatric and government bodies before formal recommendations are made.
Up to 10 per cent of infants suffer from food allergies that cause life-threatening anaphylaxis.