Thumb-Suckers and Nail-Biters Rejoice! Science Has Good News for You

Ok parents, have you gone bonkers trying to get your kids to stop biting their nails or sucking their thumbs? A new study shows that these bad habits might have some beneficial side-effects.

From NY Daily News:

Children who indulge in nail-biting or thumb-sucking are less likely to develop allergies later in life, according to a New Zealand study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

The three-decade study, which surveyed parents when their kids were 5, 7, 9 and 11, administered a skin-prick allergy test to the subjects at ages 13 and 32 — finding only 38% of kids with either habit had at least one allergy at 13, compared to 49% of those who abstained from the germy practices.

Kids who both bit their nails and sucked their thumbs had the lowest rate of allergy sensitivity at 31%.

Of course this study doesn’t solve everything. For one, researchers aren’t suggesting that parents encourage their kids to start sucking their thumbs or biting their nails. The study should just make you feel a little bit better if you are having trouble stopping your children from doing so.

Also, at the moment, all the study shows is a correlation between these behaviors and lower allergies. Critics have pointed out that other factors could be involved, such as stress levels, or changes in the skin on the hands (rather than changes in the gut). But the study could also be supporting the hygiene hypothesis, “which suggests that an obsessively clean environment could make kids’ immune systems hypersensitive and more allergy-prone.”

So if your children constantly have their hands in the their mouths, it’s not the end of the world. Just potentially a sign that they’ll suffer less from allergies later in life.