Can pacifiers make your child sick?


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Updated: 7/06/2012 9:14 am Published: 7/05/2012 7:14 pm


Pacifiers can be calming for babies. If your baby is cranky or fussy, a pacifier may help him or her settle down, But can the tool used to soothe your infant make them sick? The quick answer is; possibly.

Dr. R. Tom Glass, Pathologist and Forensic & Microbiology Professor for the Oklahoma State University Center for Health and Sciences, was part of study that evaluated the level of bacterial contamination on pacifiers. The study concluded the pacifiers sampled were contaminated with a wide variety of bacteria.

"A significant number that can make you sick and that can make your infant sick," said Dr. Glass.

It's not just the numbers that alarmed OSU microbiologists during the study, but the kinds of organisms they found.

"What we are seeing that is very disturbing with this particular culture, which is sealed,  has what are called MRSA," said Dr. Glass 

The bacteria was cultured from the pacifiers and the level of contamination was determined using a serial dilution procedure. Dr. Glass said the study revealed organisms on the pacifiers that could cause colic or middle ear infection, vomiting, diarrhea or pneumonia.

Germs are abundant everywhere but,  the microbiologists said this was concerning because the pacifier comes into intimate contact with the infant and can act like a portal.  "What goes on the pacifier is going into the infant," said Dr. Glass.

The presence of bacteria and a port of entry are part of the trifecta that can lead to illness. The other piece of the puzzle is susceptibility which means, what makes one child ill won't necessarily make your child sick.

Experts said the best line of defense is to clean pacifiers with disinfectants daily. They also suggest throwing away pacifiers every week and purchasing new ones.

Parents in Tulsa said they are doing their best to keep their kids healthy. "I try to make sure I have a plastic case so that nothing sticks to it (the pacifier) and I bought something to rinse it off with," said mother of three, Marybeth Johnson.

Dr. Glass said the microbiologists involved with the study have received a grant to broaden the study.

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