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Pets cut risk of allergies in later life

26th July 2011

Growing up with a pet may help children develop resistance to nasal allergies, according to a recent Australian study.

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The researchers surveyed families to find out how many children suffered from symptoms like runny noses, itchy eyes, and sore throats, which characterise nasal allergies.

Lead author Melanie Matheson, of the University of Melbourne, said that parents should not worry about whether or not pets would cause their children allergies.

She said her research showed that dogs in particular may protect against allergies.

Several other recent studies have shown that there may be a link between allergy susceptibility and having pets.

Earlier this year, a US study showed that growing up with pets halved children's risk of developing allergies.

Last year, a second US study showed that owning a dog could decrease a person's likelihood of having childhood eczema.

For the study, the researchers sent out a questionnaire to over 8,000 households in Europe and Australia.

The researchers were able to discern a number of possible statistically significant factors, such as genetic susceptibility.

Exposure to a lot of other children also played a statistically significant role in determining a child's susceptibility to nasal allergies.

All in all, people's risk of nasal allergies was reduced by almost one third, if they grew up on a farm.

Having a dog or cat reduced the risk by almost a sixth.

Although the survey was sent to people in 13 different countries, where levels of pet ownership and farming varied, there was no statistical variation.

There is a tenuous connection between nasal allergies and asthma, and the researchers conjecture that childhood exposure to animals could also decrease people's asthma risk.

Jonathan Bernstein, of the University of Cincinnati in the US, who was not involved in the present study, but co-authored another similar study, said that he felt more research was needed.

The researchers also were not able to gather information about animal exposure in children over five, so there is ample opportunity for a follow-up study with a wider age range.

 

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