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STUDY: Contact With Dogs May Reduce Children’s Risk of Asthma & Eczema

Two studies suggest a correlation between living with dogs and reduced inflammatory conditions in children.
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A boy and his St. Bernard happy being messy, dirty and muddy. (Getty Images)

Parents: worried about getting a dog because of all those hair-covered couches and piles of dirt? Relax. It turns out dogs’ dander and bacteria might actually be good for kids.

Two studies presented at the annual American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) meeting in late October found a positive relationship between keeping dogs in the home and reduced rates of eczema and asthma in young children.

The first study found that babies born in homes where one or more dogs were kept indoors for at least an hour every day seemed to receive protection from allergic eczema.

“We found a mother’s exposure to dogs before the birth of a child is significantly associated with lower risk of eczema by age 2 years,” said study co-author Dr. Edward M. Zoratti in an ACAAI release — likely due to the mother’s antibodies passed on in the womb.

The protective effect also seems to decrease with an increase in the child’s age, so families getting a dog when their kids are, say, 10 years old will reap fewer benefits than families who have one from the beginning.

The second study looked at the effect of dog exposure on children with asthma in Baltimore, Md. — asthma is more commonly found in children living in urban settings — and found that the allergens and bacteria found on dogs may have a protective effect against asthma symptoms. However, the effect did not hold true for children who were already allergic to dogs.

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    Kat Merck is a freelance writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. An amateur naturalist who stud... keep reading