Having a Dog or a Cat May Help Prevent Asthma

by John Bottrell Health Professional

Some people think that if you have a family history of cat or dog allergies you should not expose your kids to cats or dogs. The belief is this will prevent cat and dog allergies.

Yet that theory may soon -- if it hasn't been already -- be thown into the large, heaping pile of asthma myths, along with the myth that you grow out of asthma or that asthma is a disease of the mind.

In a recent study researchers followed 565 kids from the ages of birth through age 18, and learned that those kids who were exposed to cats had a 50 percent less chance of developing a cat allergy. Boys exposed to dogs in the first year of life were likewise 50 percent less likely to develop a dog allergy.

Yet exposure to dogs the first year of life by girls caused no significant change in their risk of developing allergies. The reason for this remians a mystery.

According to the Washington Post "Study shows early exposure to cats and dogs does not make children allergy-prone," it's not the dog per se that causes allergies, but the dander, and flakes of skin the animal sheds, that cause the allergy response.

These allergens "get on the skin when the animal licks itself, the substance dries and eventually the skin flakes off. Common symptoms of a pet allergy are sneezing and a runny nose, although some people also have trouble breathing."

Healthcay Reporter Serena Gordon, in "Early Exposure to Pets Won't Up Kids' Allergy Risk: Study," made another important connection, and I have to say I was thinking the same thing when I first read this study

She wrote that this kind of goes along with the hygiene hypothesis which surmises many cases of allergies and asthma are caused because we are overprotective of our kids -- we are too clean. That exposure to germs while the immune system is developing -- in the first year of life -- makes our immune systems stronger.

Thus, a stronger immune system will be less likely to create antibodies to identify and destroy things that are considered normal -- like cat and dog dander.

Surely this is only one study, yet I have seen other studies that came to the same conclusion. This might be proof positive that early exposure to cats and dogs will allow our kids to be among the 70 percent of Americans who own a cat or a dog.

Early exposure may allow our kids the opportunity to enjoy these fun animals later in life without being zo zduffy and mizzable.

John Bottrell
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John Bottrell

John Bottrell is a registered Respiratory Therapist. He wrote for HealthCentral as a health professional for Asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).