If you’re a parent and you’ve struggled to get your youngster to stop sucking on his or her thumb, you don’t have to be frustrated about it if you failed.

A recent study, which is published in the journal Pediatrics, says there could be an upside to this annoying habit.

According to the researchers from New Zealand, both nail-biting and thumb-sucking may have protective benefits for young children when it comes to later allergies.

The study, which lasted for three decades, compared children who have and don’t have the habits and the researchers discovered that the former are less likely to develop certain allergies, particularly those caused by common allergens that include peanuts, milk, soy, and shellfish. Most parents discourage their children from having these habits, but there is no evidence as to why the little ones should be advised from doing so.

It is important though that the researchers stressed that they don’t recommend parents to cheer their kids on thumb-sucking and nail-biting. According to Dr. Robert Hancox, the lead author of the study, if the child has one or both of the habits and they cannot seem to stop themselves, parents can find some kind of consolation in their discovery that these habits can reduce allergy risk as they grow older.

But How Did the Researchers Came into This Conclusion?

The study pulled data from another study that is currently still ongoing with the following details:

  • More than 1,000 children from New Zealand who were born in 1972 and 1973
  • Comparison of kids who had the habits when they were five, seven, nine, and eleven
  • Children were tested for allergies with skin-prick test at the age of 13
  • The same kids examined for allergies at 32 years old
/ Image from AP
/ Image from AP

After the processes mentioned above, the researchers discovered that 38% of the children who had the habits had at least one type of allergy. Meanwhile, 49% of children who did not have the habit developed one or more allergies. What’s even more compelling is that the ability of fighting off allergies is still present when those kids grew up. Factors that can contribute to the occurence of allergies and sensitivities were also taken into account during the study, including:

  • If there were pets in the house
  • If the children were breastfed when they were infants
  • If the parents smoked
  • If the parents have allergies

Allergens are all around us and we aren’t even aware of some of them, including kissing. But in addition to the given results, the researchers also said that children who had both of the habits had even lower risk of developing allergies when they were 13, compared to those who only had one of the two habits.