Impact of Pets on Allergies in Children

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Having pets (dogs or cats) is beneficial for the health, and is known to have a therapeutic effect. For children, taking care of an animal improves sociability, self-esteem and makes interpersonal relationships easier. Petting a dog or a cat helps get rid of stress and everyday worries, and also improves blood circulation.

Too bad because there many individuals, both adults and children, who are found to be allergic to dogs and cats. They will not be able to enjoy the benefits of living with a pet companion.

A study made in Sweden noted the emotional impact of pet allergies on children. Majority who were allergic to pets had more social and lifestyle limitations. Some children had to avoid staying overnight with friends who owned pets, and were discouraged from even visiting them. The study also mentioned findings about parents worrying a lot because they feel that their children feel restricted in everyday life.

For so long, allergists have been trained that dogs and cats in the house increased the risk of becoming allergic to them. It is a basic allergy fact that before you become allergic to a substance, you have to be exposed to it repeatedly. For a pet dander allergy, children are affected just as much as adults. For generations, it was believed that dogs and cats are health risks to those with allergies. Good thing that there are several studies that have emerged that prove otherwise.

A recent study at the University of Virginia found that the earlier and the longer children are exposed to pets when they are young, ideally during their first two years, the lower their frequency of having pet allergies as they grow older.

Another study also proved contrary to popular belief, revealing that children, aged seven and below, who grew up with dogs and cats in the house, have a significantly reduced risk of developing allergies to pets and other common substances. The children who have been living with pets all their life have had fewer positive skin tests to common indoor allergens (dust mite, cat and dog) and outdoor allergens (grass, ragweed).

A study in Detroit followed a group of almost 500 healthy babies, half were exposed to two or more dogs and cats, and the other half were not exposed at all to these animals. Those with multiple pets at home were half as likely to develop common allergies.

With regard to asthma risks, a study in Georgia showed that kids with no exposure to indoor pets had hyper-responsive and easily irritated airways that can be prone to asthma symptoms later on in their life. This study also mirrored the findings on having multiple pets. Those who have been raised living with multiple pets had less hyper-reactivity tendencies.

In terms of lifestyle, studies in southern Germany and Switzerland have shown that children living in cities and urban areas have higher rates of allergies versus children living at farms.

Seek the advice of your doctor before you get a pet for your child. But so far, the findings have been consistent that if a child is exposed to pets early in life, they have less risk of developing allergic symptoms.

1 Comment »

[...] who grow up in homes with pets have less risk of developing common allergies and [...]

December 21st, 2012 | 9:14 am
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