By Emma Wilkinson
Health reporter, BBC News
Almost half the children in the study used a dummy
Parents should avoid using a dummy in infants who are prone to ear infections, research suggests.
In a five-year study of almost 500 Dutch children, researchers found almost double the risk of recurrent ear infections in those who used a dummy.
Writing in the Family Practice journal they said doctors should advise parents of the risk.
Scientifically known as acute otitis media, ear infections are very common in young children.
Antibiotics do not generally work and the infection tends clear on its own within a few days but some children are prone to repeated bouts.
The researchers from University Medical Center, Utrecht said some studies before had found a link between dummy use and ear infections but they had not been very accurate.
Their research followed 476 children aged under four years, 216 of whom used a dummy.
There was a 90% increased risk of recurrent ear infections in those who sucked a dummy compared with those who did not.
The researchers said results suggested that the first infection may increase susceptibility to future ear infections.
And using a dummy may allow bacteria to more easily migrate from secretions in the nose to the middle ear, they suggested.
Study leader, Dr Maroeska Rovers, said: "Paediatricians and GPs can use this information in their daily practice - they can dissuade parents from using a pacifier [dummy] once their child has been diagnosed with acute otitis media to avoid recurrent episodes."
Professor Steve Field, chair of the Royal College of GPs said there had been previous studies but they had not been put together very well.
"This is a very useful piece of research that shows use of dummies in children under the age of four who have a history of ear infections is not a good idea.
"There's no need to panic but - in those children - not using a dummy is likely to prevent recurrence."