- "The bottom line is that maybe part of the reason we have so many children with allergies and asthma is we live too clean a life. Their Immune system never had a chance to strengthen.”
- Children who live around two or more dogs or cats before their first birthday are less likely to have allergies of any sort, according to a study in Wednesday's issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.


(Does not imply nor suggest pet have free reign of house or be inside all day, too. This study was clear with the 5,000 participants: dogs should be brought inside ONE FULL HOUR before bedtime and be allowed outside for the day soon after waking up in morning. Sleeping arrangement can be just inside door. Dogs will receive socialization, guidance and interaction with family members during this time)
All agree that homes with pets who sleep inside the home at night have much healthier family members of all ages, not to mention the extended lives of the animals due to improved health and the increased socialization provided.
It strengthens the immune system
Kids With Pets Have Fewer Allergies
By JUSTIN PRITCHARD, Associated Press Writer

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Contrary to many parents' instinct, infants who grow up with cats or dogs living along side them inside the main residence are less likely to suffer from allergies and asthma later in life, preliminary research suggests.
``Traditionally, most people have thought that increased exposure to these allergens leads to more allergies,'' said Dr. Darryl Zeldin of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. ``But, those conclusions are being re-evaluated.''
Most research has focused on how to reduce allergy sufferers' exposure to household irritants, such as dust mites and pet dander. But new evidence suggests that exposure to pets early in life might actually help the body build defenses against allergies and even asthma. `Kids exposed to animals seemed to be better off,'' said Christine C. Johnson, a researcher with the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit who conducted
one of several studies on the effects of pet exposure during infancy.

Johnson's study, involving researchers in Georgia and Michigan, found that exposure to two or more cats and dogs at 1 year of age made children less susceptible to other allergy-inducing substances by the time they turned 7, and that the exposure even improved some boys' lung function.

The study tracked 833 children, testing 473 of them after six or seven years to determine how exposure to pets when they were infants influenced their tolerance to allergens. The results were presented at an American Thoracic Society conference
last month.

Johnson and other researchers still caution that the subject remains complex. `Are we proposing that if every house in the county had cats or dogs inside, everything would be all right? I think so, but more studies are underway,'' said Dr. Thomas Platts-Mills, a University of Virginia allergy research specialist.

Platts-Mills also found that early exposure to cat dander decreased the risk of asthma, though not necessarily most allergies. A team of Swedish researchers reached the same conclusion. Platts-Mills studied 226 children aged 12 to 14 in New Mexico and Virginia and published his results in March.

Asthma rates have more than doubled since 1980 - 17.3 million Americans suffer from the respiratory disease and 5,000 people die from it each year. Millions more deal with runny noses, swollen eyes and itchy skin caused by less serious allergies.

Researchers say the new findings could be in line with what doctors call the `hygiene hypothesis.'' The theory holds that Americans grow up too clean, that a lack of environmental contaminants means immune systems overreact when they encounter allergy-inducing substances.
More pets, fewer sneezes?
Raising babies with two dogs or cats may lower allergy risk, study finds


By LAURA BEIL / The Dallas Morning News

A little hair of the dog (or cat) may protect kids against allergies.
Children who live around two or more dogs or cats before their first birthday are less likely to have allergies of any sort, according to a study in Wednesday's issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study is one of the most comprehensive so far to look at the "hygiene hypothesis," the idea that allergies are increasing because American childhood has gotten too clean. While some studies have suggested that early exposure to animals raises the risk of becoming allergic to them, other research has found that the immune system welcomes animal companionship in infancy.

"Contrary to a prevailing popular opinion, early exposure to dogs and cats doesn't increase the risk of becoming allergic to them," said Dr. Dennis Ownby of the Medical College of Georgia. "In fact, it decreases the risk of becoming allergic to anything."

Dr. Ownby's study, conducted with colleagues at the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, involved 474 children. It is one of the few allergy studies to enroll infants at birth, before anyone knew which child would develop reactions. Researchers could also account for a long list of allergy co-conspirators that might have skewed the results: whether the parents had allergies, whether anyone in the house smoked, and how many siblings each child had, among other things.
Yet even when the scientists adjusted for other explanations, the animal connection remained. Babies raised with two or more animals were about half as likely to have allergies by the time they turned 6. About 34 percent of the 6-year-olds in animal-free homes had a positive skin prick test for dander, dust mites, ragweed and other triggers. But only about 15 percent of the children with two or more cats or dogs had at least one positive allergy test.

"There seems to be something about the development of the immune system during that first year," Dr. Ownby said. The effect was much more pronounced in boys than girls, the researchers found. That finding may reflect differences in immune systems - young boys are generally more allergy-prone - or it could simply be that boys and girls play with pets differently, he said.
Having one animal didn't make much difference overall in the children's allergy rates, perhaps meaning that the immune system needs a certain level of workout before it responds, Dr. Ownby said. The results in boys suggested that having one animal was better than none. Doctors also agree, however, that children who already have allergies to dogs and cats should NOT avoid those animals.
Dr. Ownby's study complements others that have found children on farms have fewer allergies, said Dr. Thomas Platts-Mills of the University of Virginia Health Sciences Center in Charlottesville.

"Having two animals at home is like having a cow in the barn," said Dr. Platts-Mills, who wrote an editorial published with the new research. In the journal, he wrote that the suggestion of broad allergy protection from dogs and cats "differs from some previous studies but is consistent with others, and raises important questions about possible immunologic mechanisms."

Although the reason for the protection is unclear, there are hypotheses. Perhaps, some scientists believe, homes with pets have more bacteria, and more of a bacterial component called endotoxin. A number of studies in animals and people have suggested that a young immune system awash in endotoxin matures in a way that steers it away from allergic responses.
If researchers can figure out why animals may be an immune system's best friend, they may find a way to help kids whose parents can't have or don't want dogs and cats. Dr. Ownby envisions some kind of medicine - one that doesn't shed or chew the furniture - that may dull the allergic response.
"There may be something we can expose children to and reduce their risk of allergies, and now we’ve found it," Dr. Ownby said.

Dr. Rebecca Gruchalla, chief of allergy and immunology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. She stresses, though, that she's talking about allergies before they develop. Dr. Gruchalla said she was particularly struck to see that two animals were necessary for the protection. But was assuring that was the clear finding.

"I am excited to explore this further," she said.

Early exposure to pets may shield kids throughout life

By Adam Marcus
HealthScoutNews Reporter

TUESDAY, Aug. 27 (HealthScoutNews) -- Pets have long been blamed as a major source of allergens in the home, but a new study may give them at least a partial furlough from the doghouse.

Researchers say some children exposed as infants to two or more pets in the house are less -- not more -- likely to develop allergies to dogs, cats, and other irritants later.

The findings, appearing in tomorrow's issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, confirm earlier, counterintuitive studies from the United States and abroad showing that pet dander seems to protect children from allergies and asthma.

"For years, I've been telling people concerned about their kids and allergies that they ought to get pets out of the house," said Dr. Dennis Ownby, an allergist at the Medical College of Georgia and leader of the research team. "Now I have to retract that and tell them, 'If you're happy with pets in the home, you can continue to have them without feeling guilty.'"

Ownby took the matter a step further. "If you're going to have a pet," he said, "it's probably better to have two rather than one.” Quickly adding they should be similar size, breed etc for better compatibility and interaction during play time.

Ownby said there's a debate about why early exposure to pets is protective. His group's feeling is that animals may track in irritants from the dirty world outside the home that beef up a child's immune system. The generally increasing cleanliness in developed countries has been blamed for a recent surge in allergies and asthma.

"This suggests that there is something we can do that will, in fact, reduce risk.
Pets Keep Allergies at Bay

Parents who want to reduce the chances that their children will develop allergies -- and perhaps even asthma -- might want to consider getting dogs or cats as pets when their children are infants. New research indicates that children who live in homes with pets during their first year of life appear to be much less likely to develop allergies.

The Medical College followed 474 children in the Detroit area from birth to age 7, comparing those who were exposed to two or more dogs or cats during their infancy with those who were not exposed to the animals. The kids who lived with dogs or cats were half as likely to develop allergies to animals and other common substances, such as ragweed and dust mites, the researchers reported in the Aug. 28 Journal of the American Medical Association.

The researchers speculated that exposure to animals primes a child's immune system in a way that makes them less likely to be sensitive to substances that can produce allergies.

"The bottom line is that maybe part of the reason we have so many children with allergies and asthma is we live too clean a life," Ownby said. Having allergies increases a child's risk of developing asthma. So reducing the chances of developing allergies would reduce the chances of developing asthma, which has become increasingly common in the United States, the researchers noted.