New study shows that thumbsuckers, nailbiters may be less likely to develop allergies

  • A new study suggests that children who suck their thumb or nailbite are less likely to develop allergies
  • The study covered 1,000 children born between 1972 and 1973
  • Only 38% of children with an oral habit developed allergies but 50% of those who didn’t had allergies

A new study indicates that children with the habit of sucking their thumb or biting their nails, often for no apparent reason, might be less likely to have developed an allergy.

The “hygiene hypothesis” being forwarded by researchers in New Zealand posits that children who are exposed to microbes through their oral habits early on in life may grow up to have fewer allergies upon adulthood.

However, the team warns that this observational study is not yet conclusive and that other factors in place may lead to the link.

“It is always possible that there is another explanation for this association, although it is difficult to suggest what this might be,” University of Otago senior researcher Dr. Robert J. Hancox told Reuters Health, as earlier published by InterAksyon.

An analysis was done covering 1,000 individuals born between 1972 and 1973 and whose parents reported tendencies to have an oral habit in their early childhood.

About 40 percent of girls and 50 percent of boys had developed an allergy by age 13. Of these, around 38 percent were children who had an oral habit earlier in life while a much larger 50 percent did not suck their thumb or bite their nails habitually.

The study also found out that 60 percent of men and women had developed an allergy by the age of 32. A similar trend was also discovered between those who had an oral habit and those who did not.

However, researchers pointed out that their study focused only on skin tests for allergies and not for asthma. In fact, they did not find any difference in risk for developing asthma or hay fever among the sample population.

“We used skin tests to test for allergies. Although a lot of asthma is due to allergies, sometimes it is not, so maybe this is why we didn’t find the association,” Hancox explained.

For now, the study does not give any definitive recommendation yet for parents who deal with their children’s thumbsucking and nailbiting.

“I don’t think that we know enough to make a recommendation yet. Many parents worry about the dental effects of thumb sucking in particular and we don’t wish to dismiss these concerns, but if a child has a habit that is difficult to break, maybe there is some consolation in the fact that there may be a reduction in the risk of allergies,” he added.

However, the researcher encourage more studies from different regions in the world in order to bolster whatever observations they have found.