Pets do not increase allergy risk for children

Exposure to cats and dogs does not increase children's risk of developing allergic disease and may offer protection, a study in Australia suggests.

Pets: do not increase child allergy risk
Pets: do not increase child allergy risk

Researchers followed 620 infants for 12 years, analysing cord samples, skin-prick test results and information on pet-keeping, family demographics, childhood wheeze, eczema and hay fever.

The results suggested that exposure to cats or dogs at birth may be linked to a moderate reduction in risk of wheeze and hay fever after seven years.

The University of Melbourne team found that cat or dog exposure at birth moderately reduced the risk of current wheeze and hay fever from ages 7 to 12 years.

‘This protective effect was stronger among children of nonsensitized fathers,’ they said. ‘In contrast, children of cat-sensitized fathers were at increased risk of wheeze when cat exposed at birth.’

The researchers concluded: ‘In our high-risk cohort, we found keeping pets in early life did not increase children’s risk of asthma or hay fever and may even protect from developing these conditions.

‘We found no evidence to support exclusion of pets from the environment of high-risk babies.’

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