Childhood Pets Help Reduce Risk of Allergies Later On

If you don’t already have a family pet, there may be a new reason to say “yes” when your child looks at you with begging eyes and asks “mommy can we keep him?”


While questions like these are generally dreaded by parents who are afraid that adding a pet to the family may cause health problems, a new study shows that having a pet early on can actually decrease the risk of children developing allergies.


A recent study from the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, which was published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, reaffirmed the fact that pets can be good for a child’s health. Researchers studied the patterns of those who reported having allergies, most of whom reported their allergies began during their adolescence.


Perhaps unsurprisingly, research showed that mothers who smoked while pregnant were more likely to have children who would have allergies. On the other hand, those who did not suffer from allergies were those who had been exposed to other children when they were young and also those who had more siblings in their family.


Another pattern was seen in adults who had owned pets or lived on a farm as children. In fact, children who were in frequent contact and around animals on a farm seemed to have a 30% lower chance of developing allergies as adolescents while those who had a cat or dog in the home were 15% less likely than those who didn’t. When these factors were combined (having other siblings AND having contact with animals) , the chances are lowered even further. These findings have suggested that by having your child exposed to the family pet within the first five years of their life can help them become desensitized to them in the future as far as allergies are concerned.


These findings are in stark contrast to the many warnings health professionals have given parents in the past. When you think about it however, it stands to reason that the more you are exposed to something, the more immune you become.


While this study doesn’t mean that all parents must rush out and buy or adopt a family pet right away, it does help give some peace of mind for those who are considering adding one to the family. While those who already have pet allergies are often told there are “hypo-allergenic” breeds of dog, this sadly is not the truth. There are some breeds which are known to shed less or produce less dander, but there is no one type of dog that will no aggravate the allergies of someone who already has a known intolerance.



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