Pet dog nips child allergies

Take a bow-wow, Fido.

Scientists have found that man's best friend is also good for his children too, for young kids who live with a dog may get an immune-system boost against asthma and other allergies.

Joachim Heinrich of the Institute of Epidemiology at the Heimholtz Centre in Munich, Germany, led an investigation into more than 3 000 children, whose health was closely monitored from birth to the age of six.

Blood tests showed that, in households with dogs, children were less at risk from becoming sensitised to pollens and inhaled allergens - the triggers for asthma and wheezing, allergic rhinitis and eczema - than counterparts in dog-less homes.

Early exposure to germs
Heinrich believes that early exposure to germs brought into the house on dog fur could stimulate maturation of the immune system. In other words, the body's defences do not go into allergic overdrive when they are suddenly exposed to dust house mites, pollens and other triggers.

Oddly, though, the benefit seen in the children's antibodies did not show through in terms of symptoms, the study found.

Children with a dog were as susceptible to asthma and the other problems as counterparts without the pets.

"It is not crystal clear why this is so," Heinrich told AFP, saying it could be that the protective benefit may show up when the children in the study are a little older. Further assessments will be made when they reach the age of 10.

The paper appears in the European Respiratory Journal, published by the European Respiratory Society (ERS).

Further work is needed to understand why dogs appear to deliver this protection before a recommendation can be made to get a canine companion, said Heinrich. – (Sapa/AFP)

Read more:
Pets a health plus
Pet Centre

April 2008

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