LIVING HEALTHY Published September10, 2015 By Milafel Hope Dacanay

Pets Help Protect Kids against Allergies

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Dog Kiss
(Photo : Al Barry | Hulton Archive)

It's perfectly normal for parents to feel worried about having pets and babies in the same house. The former, after all, have the notoriety of possibly increasing the risk of allergies among infants-or perhaps that's not entirely correct.

In a small initial study conducted by PhD researchers and doctors of Finland's University of Turku, child and pet comingling increases the likelihood of animal gut bacteria transfer, which will then help increase the immunity of the child against different types of allergens, including pet dander.

Pet dander is considered as one of the most common triggers of allergy diseases. It contains a protein from the dried saliva of dogs and cats that causes the immune system to overreact that can result to the appearance of allergy symptoms.

For the study, Dr. Merja Nermes, one of the authors, and her colleagues wanted to determine the extent of the effects of pet exposure to a child's immune system using an ongoing probiotic study participated by pregnant women who have allergy history. Allergies are assumed to have a genetic predisposition. Children who are born to parents who have allergies are at least 50% likely to develop the condition as well.

Among the pool of participants, they selected 51 women with infants and pets and 64 who have babies but no pets to serve as the control group.

The babies in both groups underwent two types of tests at different times. When they were one month, their DNA was tested for presence of the animal gut bacteria, specifically B. pseudolongnum and B thermophium, using the fecal sample from diapers. When analyzed, 33% of the first group had tested positive of the bacteria while around 14% of the control group had them, although it's unclear how they had obtained the bacteria.

When they turned half year, the researchers conducted a skin prick test to find out which allergies the babies are prone to. More than 15 of the babies had allergic reactions, but for those with B. thermophilum, they didn't have any.

Although the study doesn't say if the protection extends until way later in life, it's clear that parents should not stop themselves having pets at home while the child is still a baby.

In an another earlier study, farm dust can help control or prevent allergy symptoms and asthma as the protein present in it can make the mucus in the lungs to become less sensitive to allergens.  

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