Dogs might help reduce risk of allergies in children

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: July 3rd, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Don’t be too quick to blame Fido the next time your child’s eyes well up with tears during a sneezing fit. Researchers say early exposure to germs carried into the home on the fur of Man’s best friend actually reduces the risk of allergies in children.

Scientists distributed questionnaires and analyzed blood samples to monitor the health of more than three-thousand children from birth to age six during a six-year study conducted by German researchers. The researchers say early exposure to the germs helps train young immune systems to be less sensitive toward inhaled allergens that trigger conditions like asthma and hay fever.

Previous studies involving dog ownership and childhood contact yielded conflicting results, with some saying it reduces the risk of wheezing and asthma, and others saying it had no effect.

The presence of a dog in the home during a child’s infancy was associated with a lower level of sensitivity to pollen and inhaled allergens. The same effect was not seen in children who had frequent contact with the animals, but who did not live with Rover under the same roof.

But parents beware: Owning a pet pup does not guarantee your kids will be allergy-free. The anti-allergen antibodies scientists found in the children’s blood samples did not help lessen the severity of allergic reactions if they occurred.

But before families rush out to animal shelters to adopt a new pet pooch, scientists say more studies are needed for further evidence.