(CNN)Your baby's pacifier falls on the floor. Before giving it back to your child, do you wash it in a sink or, perhaps reluctantly, clean it with your own saliva?
Don't feel too guilty if you chose the latter, because a new study suggests that a mother's spit -- and the bacteria in it -- may help prevent allergies in young children.
The research found lower levels of a troublesome, allergy-causing protein in babies whose mothers reported sucking on their infants' pacifiers, adding to a growing body of evidence that early exposure to microbes may prevent allergies in children.
"The idea is that the microbes you're exposed to in infancy can affect your immune system's development later on in life," said Dr. Eliane Abou-Jaoude, an allergy fellow with the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit. She is presenting her findings this weekend at the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology Annual Scientific Meeting.
Microbial exposure might prevent allergies
Research has shown that people who live near livestock, those who avoid dishwashers and babies born through the microbe-filled vaginal canal -- instead of via C-section -- are all less likely to develop allergies.
The new study, which hasn't been peer-reviewed, is "one more piece of data that early exposure to microbes helps prevent allergi