Pacifiers Linked to Ear Infections

ByABC News
September 5, 2000, 11:06 AM

B O S T O N, Sept. 5 -- Helping your kid kick the pacifier habit may prevent painful ear infections, one of the most common childhood ailments, a new study says.

Finnish researchers are unsure why, but they found children who continuously sucked on a pacifier had more cases of ear infections than those who didnt.

The study, led by Dr. Marjo Niemela of the University of Oulu, Finaland, is published in the current issue of Pediatrics.

The study divided 484 children ranging from 7 months to 18 months of age into two groups, asking the parents of one group to restrict the time their child used a pacifier for several months.

These parents were told about some of the drawbacks of using pacifiers, such as a higher risk of tooth misalignment and the possible link to ear infections.

Fewer Infections

The study found that those children who cut back on the use of pacifiers had 33 percent fewer cases of ear infections than those children who didnt.

The researchers dont advise banning pacifiers altogether, but say parents should limit pacifier use once the child is past the age of 6 months. At that point, pacifiers should only be used to soothe the child to sleep, and should be discontinued completely after 10 months of age.

This may be of some dismay to many parents, who rely on pacifiers to help their child gratify the sucking instinct between meals and calm them when they are upset.

Addicted to Pacifiers?

Absolutely, parents get dependent on these pacifiers, says Dr. Glenn Isaacson, a pediatric otolaryngologist at Temple University in Philadelphia.

Some 75 percent to 85 percent of children in Western countries use pacifiers, the study reports.

The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends that pacifiers do not cause any medical problems and can be used safely to satisfy a childs sucking instinct.

The Finnish researchers are unsure why the use of a pacifier might lead to an ear infection, but theorized it may have something to do with the change in pressure equilibrium inside the ear caused by the sucking.