Family Dog Tied to Lower Eczema Rates in At-Risk Kids
By Amy Norton, from Reuters Health
NEW YORK - Young children with a family history of allergies may be less likely to develop eczema if they live with a dog starting in infancy, a new study suggests.
BUT NOT CATS
On the other hand, researchers found, living with a cat may increase those odds — but only among children who have a specific sensitivity to cat allergen.
PUPPIES GOOD, KITTIES BAD
The findings, published online September 30th in the Journal of Pediatrics, do not prove that puppies are protective and kitties are bad for allergy-prone children. Instead, they add to what appears to be a complex, and often confusing, relationship between the family pet and kids’ allergy risks.
However, she told Reuters Health, a number of studies have now found that when it comes to eczema, young children who live with dogs may be at lower risk than those who do not.
The current report covers 636 children who were enrolled as infants in a long-term study of environmental exposures and allergy risk. All were considered to be at increased risk of allergies because they had a parent with a history of asthma, nasal allergies or eczema.
When the children were infants, researchers visited their homes and collected dust samples. The children also underwent yearly exams, including a skin-prick test to see whether they were sensitized to any number of allergens.
LESS ALLERGIES WITH PUPPIES
Overall, Dr. Epstein‘s team found, 14% of the children had eczema at the age of 4. But that rate was lower – 9% — among the 184 children who’d had a dog in the home during infancy.
What’s more, among children who had a sensitivity to dog allergen, having a family dog was linked to a substantially lower eczema risk: of 14 children who met both those conditions, two (14%) developed eczema. That compared with 17 of 30 children (57%) who were sensitized to dogs but had no dog at home early in life.
THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
There is no solid explanation for the seemingly protective effects of dogs, according to Dr. Epstein. But she speculated that early exposure to dog allergen affects children’s immune system development in such a way that eczema becomes less likely to develop.
Dr. Pinna says:
Apart from allergies, a pet is an absolute requirement for kids. If a child has no pets, he or she lives an isolated life in a universe peopled only with adults.
Children are quite aware that they are vulnerable creatures in their family.Â The pet supplies comfort as a companion that is of the same size or smaller.
Dogs make the best pets. Mankind has had a love affair with dogs for over a hundred thousand years.Â Genetically, the dog adapted to the human family and provides security and love. For the child, the dog provides protection and affection.
You cannot beat this combination.
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