While pacifiers can offer solace to a crying infant, new research suggests they can also provide babies with bacteria.
"The pacifier is a potential reservoir for germs that will make you sick," says Dr. R. Thomas Glass of the Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences.
Dr. Glass and his colleagues at Oklahoma State University did a small study of ten used infant pacifiers.
They looked clean, but under a microscope they found microbial contamination: Mold and staph bacteria.
"It may look solid in your hand, but when we look at it under the scanning electron microscope, it looks like a sponge," Dr. Glass says.
No studies have proven that a dirty paci can lead to actual illness, but most experts agree parents should replace them at least monthly even if they're cleaned and sterilized after every use.
"It's cheap medicine to discard your pacifiers every two weeks," Dr. Glass advises.
The new research is being presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Clinical Pathology in Boston.