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The more the merrier when it comes to pets and their apparent ability to minimize childhood allergies.
A Swedish study, conducted by university, government, and foundation researchers, tested the relationship between the number of dogs and cats children had as infants (newborn to one-year olds) and the severity of allergy-related conditions (asthma, eczema, hay fever and allergic rhino-conjunctivitis) at the age of 7 or 8. The severity of disease was measured by the dose of anti-allergy medication administered to each participant.
The researchers looked at data collected from two prior studies; both contained information about anti-allergy medications administered to individuals at age 7 to 8, as well as answers to how many dogs and cats were in the childrens' households when they were infants. The study did not consider other pets that might have been present in the household, such as birds, rabbits, or other household pets.
The results, however, are persuasive regarding the correlated occurrence of dogs and cats.
The blue poles indicate allergic reactions experience during the child's first year of life, tested at six months of age. The green poles indicate the presence of allergy at the most recent test, when the subjects were between 7 and 8 years old. The results are obvious: the more dogs and cats in the household when they were infants, the fewer anti-allergy medications were necessary 7 years later.
Medical researchers are becoming more and more focused on the environments that contribute to allergies as well as those which immunize infants to some degree from developing allergies. In this case, the dander produced by dogs or cats would induce a 'clinical tolerance' to those allergens. They might also protect a child from microbes from food and airborne allergies related to the presence of those animals. This, investigators called a 'mini-farm' effect, which would protect the child not only from pet allergies but to environmental allergies.
Who knew that cats and dogs - the more the merrier - aren't only such great pals for kids, but that they also contribute to better physical health?