JoAnna Lou
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Studying Kids and Pet Allergies
Exposure to dogs can be beneficial for developing immune systems

I don’t currently have kids, but one of my fears is that my future children may become allergic to my dogs. Fortunately, a new study found that having pets in the house could potentially lessen the risk of developing allergies.

The study, led by Ganesa Wegienka, MS, PhD, of the Department of Public Health Sciences at Henry Ford Hospital, set out to answer one of the most popular questions parents have—whether pets will increase their baby’s risk of developing allergies.

Researchers followed 565 children from birth through the age of 18. They found that boys who lived with a dog during the first year of their life had about half the risk of developing allergies as compared to those without a dog in the house. 

Interestingly the study did not find a connection with girls and dogs, but both sexes had a smaller risk of developing a feline allergy if they lived with a cat. Researchers have determined that the first year is the most important exposure period when it comes to allergies.

What has been your experience with kids and pet allergies?

JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

Photo by celesteh/flickr.

CommentsPost a Comment
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Submitted by SJ | June 14 2011 |

I grew up always having cats in the home; but my husband grew up with dogs. We now have a dog of our own. As for allergies, my husband actually suffers from cat allergies, not dog allergies.

Submitted by Frances | June 14 2011 |

I grew up with cats and dogs, but not before I was 2 or 3 years old. In my early 20s I developed hayfever, and am now allergic to any number of things - including dust mites - but not animals of any kind.

Submitted by lin | June 15 2011 |

A family of four kids; we didn't have any pets until I was about 2 and the oldest was 6 (cats). Got a dog when I was about 5. None of us are allergic. Siblings between them have 5 kids, as of now, none are allergic. I think having a pet when very young definitely strengthens the immune system, but it may be more genetic than anything else.

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