The Washington Post Parents who want to reduce the chances that their children will develop allergies and perhaps even asthma might want to consider getting dogs or cats as pets when their children are infants. New research indicates that children who live in homes with pets during their first year of life appear to be much less likely to develop allergies.
Dennis Ownby of the Medical College of Georgia and his colleagues followed 474 children in the Detroit area from birth to age 7, comparing those who were exposed to two or more dogs or cats during their infancy with those who were not exposed to the animals.
The children who lived with dogs or cats were half as likely to develop allergies to animals and other common substances, such as ragweed and dust mites, the researchers reported in the Aug. 28 Journal of the American Medical Assn.
The researchers speculated that exposure to animals primes a child's immune system in a way that makes them less likely to be sensitive to substances that can produce allergies.
Having allergies increases a child's risk of developing asthma. So reducing the chances of developing allergies would reduce the chances of developing asthma, which has become increasingly common in the United States, the researchers noted.