Children's asthma risk reduced by pets
The risk of asthma among children could be reduced by having a pet dog - or being around farm animals. A study conducted in Sweden has underlined growing concerns that living in 'too-clean conditions' in the early stages of life could increase your vulnerability to developing allergies and asthma.
The research, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, showed that households with dogs were 15 per cent less likely to have children with asthma, while contact with animals from a farm could as much as halve the risk. Scientists examined a million children born between 2001 and 2010 in Sweden, and determined that those who had spent time around dogs during their first year of life were less likely to be diagnosed with childhood asthma. Kids living close to farmland saw their risk reduced by a staggering 52 per cent.
"Earlier studies have shown that growing up on a farm reduces a child's risk of asthma to about half," lead scientist Dr Tove Fall, from Uppsala University, Sweden, revealed. "We wanted to see if this relationship also was true also for children growing up with dogs in their homes.
"Our results confirmed the farming effect, and we also saw that children who grew up with dogs had about 15 per cent less asthma than children without dogs.
"Because we had access to such a large and detailed data set, we could account for confounding factors such as asthma in parents, area of residence and socio-economic status."
Exposure to parasites and microbes in the early years of childhood can help the immune system to develop effectively. The hygiene hypothesis warns that being overly fastidious about your child's cleanliness can be dangerous to their health, as their bodies may lack the ability to effectively respond to germs and infections.
"We know that children with established allergy to cats or dogs should avoid them, but our results also indicate that children who grow up with dogs have reduced risks of asthma later in life," Professor Catarina Almqvist Malmros, from Sweden's Karolinska Institute and co-author of the study, explained.
She added that the study was unable to shed light on how animals may be able to protect children from developing asthma.