Exposure to Dogs and Cats May Help Prevent Children from Developing Allergies, Study Shows

In Education

According to a recent study in Japan, owning a cat or a dog can safeguard young children against food allergies, even during pregnancy. However, the study highlights the rising number of children who require allergy treatment, with over 10% suffering from allergies.

Exposure to pets may prevent the development of allergies

As medical professionals struggle to keep up, the research shows that owning pets could alleviate the problem by decreasing allergy risks by approximately 15%. The study found that children exposed to dogs were less likely to develop egg, nut, and milk allergies. Additionally, egg, wheat, and soybean allergy cases decreased among children with cats.

University of Fukushima Medical’s Dr. Hisao Okabel and the lead study author aid that continued cat and dog exposure during pregnancy to infancy reduces the risk of food allergies.

According to the hygiene hypothesis, exposure to pets can effectively prevent allergic diseases. Several studies have even highlighted the advantages of dog exposure during fetal development or infancy in preventing food allergies. The current research investigates how exposure to different types of pets affects the likelihood of developing food allergies.

What causes allergies?

The “hygiene hypothesis” suggests that overly clean living conditions may contribute to the rise in allergies worldwide. For example, allergy rates in the United Kingdom are among the highest, with hospital admissions for acute reactions to food increasing significantly while hay fever and eczema rates have plateaued or decreased.

According to a study, pet exposure may lower the risk of food allergies in children by boosting the microbiome. Results showed a reduced incidence of food allergies in children with indoor pets during fetal development, though there was no significant difference for children with outdoor dogs. Children exposed to hamsters had a higher incidence of nut allergies. The study authors suggest these findings alleviate concerns about pet ownership causing allergic diseases and could lead to a decrease in childhood mortality from anaphylaxis. The study collected self-reported data and medical records during pregnancy and early infancy and could help guide further research into childhood food allergies.

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