Dirty Habit

nukRemember when you had your first child and his pacifier fell out of his mouth at the park?  You wouldn’t dream of letting your precious peanut place the plastic plug back in his mouth after it touched the ground.  Not a chance.  Rather, you likely pulled out a fresh binky and let your baby resume sucking on it.

Then, you had baby number two.  When his pacifier fell to the ground, you picked it up, brushed it off on your sleeve and stuck it back in his mouth without thinking twice.

Looking back, I bet it’s hard to tell whether or not relaxing the rules made a difference in the health of your child.  Clearly, you aren’t going to allow your kid to suck on a binky that fell into a pool of unknown liquid during a trip to a public restroom, but what if his nuk took a dive into a pile of woodchips at the playground.  Can a child really get sick by sucking on a fallen pacifier?

According to a new study, the answer is “yes,” but there’s a catch.

Researchers maintain that pacifiers are incubators for germs; however, the plastic nipples don’t have to fall out of a child’s mouth to attract bacteria.  Once a pacifier is exposed to food and water, the potential for bacteria growth is extremely high, according to microbiology experts at Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences in Tulsa.  Scientists found that even new pacifiers have some bacteria on them, but not nearly as much as used binkies.

The study found more than 40 different species of bacteria on test pacifiers given to children to suck on during a five-hour period.  Even some of the nuks that didn’t fall to the ground tested positive for fungus and Staphylococcus aureus.  Researchers reason that the germs were present on pacifiers because kids put other objects in their mouths and bacteria can transfer from one object to another.

So, now that you know that your child’s pacifier can be laden with germs even if it doesn’t tumble to the ground, what can you do to protect him from getting sick?

Experts suggest sanitizing your baby’s pacifiers daily.  However, instead of using regular soap and water, soak the binkies in denture solution, which you can buy without a prescription.  After letting the nuks sit in the solution overnight, rinse them off with fresh water and place them in a sealed bag or container.

Also, keep in mind that pacifiers are not meant to be used indefinitely.  Researchers recommend all used pacifiers be thrown out after two weeks. Finally, if your child gets sick, replace all of his pacifiers.  The plastic nipples can become a reservoir for germs and it doesn’t pay to recontaminate your infant by giving him an old binky when he is on the road to recovery.


This entry was posted in Child Safety Issues and tagged , , by Michele Cheplic. Bookmark the permalink.
Michele Cheplic

About Michele Cheplic

Michele Cheplic was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, but now lives in Wisconsin. Michele graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a degree in Journalism. She spent the next ten years as a television anchor and reporter at various stations throughout the country (from the CBS affiliate in Honolulu to the NBC affiliate in Green Bay). She has won numerous honors including an Emmy Award and multiple Edward R. Murrow awards honoring outstanding achievements in broadcast journalism. In addition, she has received awards from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association for her reports on air travel and the Wisconsin Education Association Council for her stories on education. Michele has since left television to concentrate on being a mom and freelance writer.