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Thumb sucking, nail biting in children may be protective against allergies

Thumb sucking, nail biting in children may be protective against allergies

Thumb sucking, nail biting in children may be protective against allergies

Parents who’ve struggled and failed to get their youngsters to quit thumb sucking can take heart: there may be an upside to the habit. Researchers have found thumb sucking and nail biting in young children may be protective against allergies.

Compared to children with neither habit, those who sucked their thumbs and bit their nails were far less likely to develop sensitivities to common allergens, according to a report published Monday in Pediatrics.

That doesn’t mean parents should be encouraging their children to start sucking their thumbs if they aren’t already doing it, says study coauthor Dr. Bob Hancox, an associate professor of preventive and social medicine at the Dunedin School of Medicine in New Zealand.

A safer strategy might be “having pets—cats and dogs—which also appear to protect against [allergies],” Hancox says. “Whether this is regarded as a positive behavior depends on family circumstances.”

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