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BACKGROUND: Environmental microbial exposure plays a role in immune system development and susceptibility to food allergy. OBJECTIVE: We sought to investigate whether infant pacifier use during the first postnatal year, with further consideration of sanitization, alters the risk of food allergy by age 1 year. METHODS: The birth cohort recruited pregnant mothers at under 28 weeks' gestation in southeast Australia, with 894 families followed up when infants turned 1 year. Infants were excluded if born under 32 weeks, with a serious illness, major congenital malformation, or genetic disease. Questionnaire data, collected at recruitment and infant ages 1, 6, and 12 months, included pacifier use and pacifier sanitization (defined as the joint exposure of a pacifier and cleaning methods). Challenge-proven food allergy was assessed at 12 months. RESULTS: Any pacifier use at 6 months was associated with food allergy (adjusted odds ratio, 1.94; 95% CI, 1.04-3.61), but not pacifier use at other ages. This overall association was driven by the joint exposure of pacifier-antiseptic use (adjusted odds ratio, 4.83; 95% CI, 1.10-21.18) compared with no pacifier use. Using pacifiers without antiseptic at 6 months was not associated with food allergy. Among pacifier users, antiseptic cleaning was still associated with food allergy (adjusted odds ratio, 3.56; 95% CI, 1.18-10.77) compared with no antiseptic use. Furthermore, persistent and repeated antiseptic use over the first 6 months was associated with higher food allergy risk (P = .029). CONCLUSIONS: This is the first report of a pacifier-antiseptic combination being associated with a higher risk of subsequent food allergy. Future work should investigate underlying biological pathways.

Original publication




Journal article


J Allergy Clin Immunol

Publication Date





1823 - 1829.e11


Pacifier, antiseptic, birth cohort, dummy, food allergy, microbial exposure, sanitization