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Kids and Allergies: Can Pets Help the Problem?

By: Renae Hamrick, RVT

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Expecting parents often face a difficult decision in hopes of giving their child a healthy start. These parents-to-be are believers in the old idea that having pets in the home will cause their children to develop allergies. Fear not, pet lovers! Studies prove that the opposite is actually true. Pets can significantly decrease your child's allergy risk!

Multiple studies performed by researchers and doctors, including allergists and pediatricians, have proven that having two or more dogs and/or cats during early childhood reduces the risk of allergies by up to 77%!

A study at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta allergy tested 474 six year-old children in Detroit. About 33% of children who were not exposed to pets as infants or had only one pet tested positive for allergies. Those who lived with more than one pet as babies had at least half the chance of developing allergies.

Pets do not only decrease the odds of developing animal-related allergies, they also decrease the risk of other allergies, such as grass, dust mites, and ragweed. Because children with allergies are more likely to develop asthma, pets may also lower the odds of having this dangerous respiratory disease.

It is believed that dogs and cats reduce the risk of allergies because of the bacteria carried in their mouths. Exposure to this bacteria causes a child's immune system to develop a response system that makes allergies much less likely. Protecting children from these exposures and living a very clean life may take away the opportunity for a child to develop these defenses.

Scientists hope to someday identify and isolate the allergy-reducing factor. If this is possible, it may be possible to give it to babies and improve their future health. This would give the multi-pet benefit to families who aren't so animal-crazy.

If you are expecting a child, and you are worried about the affects your pet will have on your new bundle of joy, consider this article, and talk to your doctor. Keep in mind that your pet is also part of the family, and he has a lot to offer your children. Your pet will help keep your child active, teach responsibility, provide love and friendship, teach respect of animals, and even improve physical health!

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