Babies have been seen sucking on their fingers in utero weeks before birth. But the sight of an older child with his fingers constantly in his mouth, sucking her thumb, biting his nails, can drive parents crazy, bringing up fears about everything from social stigma to germs.
A new study suggests that those habits in children ages 5 to 11 may indeed increase exposure to microbes, but that that may not be all bad.
When a pediatrician discusses thumb-sucking, its usually because a parent is worried. The thumb is in the mouth so constantly that theres a worry about speech or about whether the teeth may be affected. Its gone on too long, and an older child is being teased about it. And in those situations, especially when a child is over 4, we work with parents and children on how to break the habit.
Nail biting worries parents for similar reasons, and we often end up giving similar advice: Dont make negative comments; look ...