Monday, June 13, 2011

Early exposure to pets might lower risk of future allergy

Having a pet at home during the first year of a child may halve the risk of developing allergic to them later in life, a new study suggests.

The study was published in the journal Clinical & Experimental Allergy.

Researchers from Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit assessed 566 boys and girls who were followed from birth until age 18. They found that boys who had dogs and teens who had cats during their first year of life had 50 percent less risk of developing pet allergies later.

Lead researcher Ganesha Wegienka said: "This research provides further evidence that experiences in the first year of life are associated with health status later in life, and that early life pet exposure does not put most children at risk of being sensitized to these animals later in life."

The researchers said that exposure to animals at other times in childhood didn't appear to be as significant as the first year.

However, Wegienka cautioned that this study doesn't prove a cause-and-effect relationship between having a pet and avoiding allergies, just an association between those two factors.

"We don't want to say that everyone should go out and get a dog or cat to prevent allergies," she said.

"More research is needed, though we think this is a worthwhile avenue to pursue."
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