New Study Says Nail Biting and Thumb Sucking May Be a Good Thing

Parents typically frown upon their infants and young children to stop nail biting and thumb sucking, but new information from Pediatrics may have them changing their tune on the perceived bad habit.

These two common habits may actually protect young children from developing allergies. In a comparative study between thumb suckers and nail biters and children who do not partake in the habits, the former group was less likely to develop sensitivities to common allergens.

As per Today Health & Wellness, a study to detect if these habits had any effect on allergies, “Followed 1,037 children born in 1972-1973 for more than three decades.” Allergy tests were done when the children were 13 and 32 years old. The study showed that, “At age 13, 38 percent of the children who bit their nails or sucked their thumbs showed sensitivity to allergens such as dust mites, grasses and dog dander, compared to 49 percent of the children who displayed neither habit.”

By no means does the study encourage parents to instill these habits in their children, but if their child is already doing them, this could give some peace of mind.

The reasoning behind the theory is that by exposing young children to germs, the immune system learns how to react and protect. In our increasingly germ-phobic environment, the immune system doesn’t have a chance to protect and kids wind up getting sick.

While not all allergens seem to be kept at bay thanks to the nail biting and thumb sucking, the study found a decrease in sensitivity to dust mites, grasses, and dog dander among the “bad” habit group.

If you’re still not sold on letting your child partake in these habits, Dr. Bob Hancox, coauthor of the study, suggests owning, “pets—cats and dogs—which also appear to protect against [allergies].” 

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