What role for the pacifier in acute otitis media risk?
Introduction: Sucking reflex is acknowledged as a comforting mechanism for infants. When used for short periods of time, it is considered a healthy habit. Acute otitis media is one of the most frequent infections in pediatric age and has been associated with pacifier misuse.
Objectives: To review available evidence regarding the association between pacifier use in the first years of life and otitis media risk. Methods: A literature search was conducted on several databases using MeSH terms “otitis” and “pacifiers” for guidelines, systematic reviews, randomized controlled trials, and observational studies over the last 20 years. SORT scale of the American Family Physician was used to evaluate evidence levels.
Results: A total of 56 articles were retrieved, of which four guidelines, one systematic review, and one original article were selected. According to guidelines, there is no reason to discourage pacifier use, as it can be particularly beneficial in the first six months of life. Afterwards, pacifier use should be limited to moments of falling asleep. Its use should also be avoided in infants with chronic or recurrent otitis media. The systematic review stablished pacifier use as a risk factor for recurrent acute otitis media (RAOM) which is susceptible to intervention. In the observational study, a statistically significant association was found between pacifier use and RAOM risk.
Conclusions: Pacifier use should not be actively discouraged in the first semester of life, as it can have beneficial effects for children (SORT A). Afterwards, its use should be discontinued due to increased otitis risk (SORT A).
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