A 2016 study published in the journal Pediatrics alleged that children who suck their thumbs or bite their nails may be less likely to develop allergies, but that's no consolation for the parent with a habitual thumb sucker.
Scientifically, the childhood habit is thought to lead to early exposure to microbes and strengthen the immune system, but for many parents thumb sucking is a bad habit that they want their children to break.
How can they do it?
Children usually stop sucking their thumbs on their own between age two and four, doctors say, or by the time the permanent front teeth are ready to erupt. But many children don't, and it's these children that can be helped by the tips below.
1. Correct the problem
Identify the reason why your child is sucking their thumb — children will suck their thumbs when feeling insecure or needing comfort. Focus on correcting the cause of the anxiety and provide comfort to the child.
2. Positive reinforcement
Praise and reward the child when they get through a period of not sucking the thumb. Then set goals — such as no thumb sucking for an hour — and give the child a sticker or other reward when they meet the target.
3. Involve them in the process
Try to explain why they need to stop, and involve them in choosing the method of stopping. You can encourage an older child, for example, with photos of dental issues caused by thumb sucking. If you're not getting through to them, your dentist may be able to explain what could happen to their teeth if they do not stop sucking their thumb.
4. Apply the bandage
If talking doesn't work, remind the child of the need to break the habit by bandaging the thumb or putting a sock on the hand at night.