Thumb Sucking and Nail Biting May Prevent Allergies in Children


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Calling all parents! If you’ve ever struggled to get your child to stop sucking their thumb or keep them from biting their nails, there might be a silver lining.

According to a new study published in Pediatrics, children who suck their thumbs and bite their nails may be better protected against common allergies.


However, this doesn’t mean you should start encouraging your children to keep the habit up, explained Dr. Bob Hancox, associate professor of preventive and social medicine at the Dunedin School of Medicine in New Zealand and coauthor of the study.

Hancox recommends “having pets” instead.

“Whether this is regarded as a positive behavior depends on family circumstances,” he explained.

The new study supports the “hygiene hypothesis,” which proves that this current generation’s obsession with a germ-free world may be adding to the amount of allergies in kids due to less exposer to natural germs.

“When the environment is excessively sterile, the immune system can go wrong, experts say. It’s like having a large standing army with nothing to do. Those bored immune system soldiers will look for something to attack, and in some people, that means going after allergens,” explained Today.

The study pulled data from over 1,000 children in New Zealand born in 1972 or 1973. The parents were asked about their children’s habits “when the kids were 5, 7, 9 and 11 years old. Researchers also tested the children for allergies using a skin-prick test when they were 13, and then followed up with the kids again when they were 32.”

The study was able to find that 38 percent of children who had thumb sucking or nail biting habits had one allergy, while 49 percent of the children who did not have the habits had one allergy as well.


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