Understanding the Relationship Between Pets and Allergies

puppy Does your allergic child want a puppy? Can having a cat or dog in your house cause your baby to become allergic to animals? It can be difficult to separate fact from fiction when it comes to allergies, pets, and what is safest for your child. Before you decide to ban all animals from your home, forever, there are some things you should know about pet related allergies.

There are many parents who will not consider getting a dog or cat until after their baby gets older. Some parents will hold off until their child is in preschool, or may wait until their child is attending elementary school before including a family pet into their home. There is fear that having a pet in the house can cause your baby to become allergic. This belief isn’t entirely factual, however.

A study done by researchers from Henry Ford Hospital, in Detroit, Michigan, finds that having a childhood pet does not necessarily lead to a child developing allergies later on in life. The study focused on 18 year olds who were enrolled in the Detroit Childhood Allergy Study at birth. It also looked at data from the years between 1987 and 1989.

The results of the study showed that children who had a dog or a cat in their home were not at an increased risk for developing pet allergies when they got older. Specifically, the study noted children who had a pet in the home in the first year of the child’s life had a 50% lower risk of developing pet allergies later on.

The reasons why include the “hygiene hypothesis”. This theory states that when an infant is exposed to a potential environmental allergen, like pets or dust, this can trigger the infant’s immune system to grow a tolerance for that allergen. Babies who grow up in over-sanitized homes do not get that exposure, and the theory states that this can, perhaps, make those babies more likely to develop environmental allergies when they get older.

Another reason why early exposure to pets does not cause allergens has to do with genetics. Parents who are not allergic to dogs and cats may have a few living in their home when a baby is born. They cannot pass on genes that are linked to allergies to their infants if the parents do not have those variations in the first place.

This means that parents who have been holding off on getting a family dog specifically because they were afraid of the dog causing their child to have allergies shouldn’t worry so much. Chances are that if you are not allergic to dogs, then your infant isn’t going to be allergic to them either.

Image by yasmapaz & ace_heart on Flickr

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