For a couple who's planning to have children or a family with small tots, there might be no better time to get a pet dog than today. According to a new Swedish study, keeping pets may be beneficial in preventing asthma among young children.
Asthma is one of the most prevalent conditions around the world, and it is common among children. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 6.8 million or 9.3% children in the United States have the condition. A respiratory illness, asthma is characterized by difficulty in breathing due to bronchial spasms. Although the actual cause of asthma is not well understood, it can be triggered by many things including pet dander.
Pet dander contains flecks of skin from furred or feathered animals. The skin cells may have certain proteins that a person may develop allergic reactions to. Although there are more households with dogs than with cats, cats tend to trigger more pet allergies. Because dander is both lightweight and small, it can remain in the environment or suspended in the air for a long time, enough period for a child to inhale them and cause asthma or other allergic reactions.
The Swedish researchers conducted what could be the biggest research on the correlation between asthma and pets. First, they worked on results of previous related studies that suggested farm animals can help lower asthma risk. They then gathered data on around a million Swedish children who lived with farm animals or pets at home. Based on the findings, having pets at home can reduce the risk by as much as 13% among children at least 6 years old.
The study didn't cover the reasons for the supposed reduced risk. It also doesn't establish a cause-and-effect relationship and that the subject still requires more follow-up. Nevertheless, the researchers have come up with certain theories including the early exposure of the children to bacteria, which may be helpful in their long-term health.
The study is now published in JAMA Pediatrics.