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Thumb-sucking and nail-biting habits help reduce allergies, study revealed

A research revealed that children who like to suck their thumbs or bite their nails have a lower chance of developing allergies. And if they have both habits, their chance of getting allergies goes even lower.

The study was completed by researchers of New Zealand’s Dunedin School of Medicine, in collaboration with professor Malcolm Sears of McMaster University’s Michael G. DeGroote of Medicine and formerly from Dunedin.

According to Sears, their findings were consistent with the hygiene theory that early exposure to dirt or germs lowers the risk of developing allergies. He added that even though they don’t recommend doing the said oral habits, it appeared that there is a positive side to the said habits.

To come up with the conclusion, they measured the habits of thumb-sucking and nail-biting among a longitudinal birth cohort of more than 1,000 New Zealand children at ages 5, 7, 9, and 11 while a skin-prick testing was done at 13 and 32 years old to measure atopic sensitization.

The researchers discovered that 31% of children were incessant thumb suckers or nail biters. Also, among all children at 13 years old, 45% displayed atopic sensitization.

Among those with one oral habit, only 40% had allergies. For those who have both habits, only 31% of them had allergies.

This trend was carried on into adulthood, and showed no difference depending on smoking in the household; having pets such as cats or dogs; or exposure to house dust mites.

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