Pets May Help Build Immunity During Pregnancy

Keeping pets in the home during pregnancy may help prevent eczema and asthma in babies. Two studies presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) indicate that having pets, dogs in particular, in the home during pregnancy decreases the chance of children developing these immune related diseases.

In the first study, Dr. Tsou studied how children with asthma reacted to dogs. He separated the exposure into what is on the dog’s fur (like dirt from outside) versus proteins innate to the dogs themselves. The study found that exposing these urban kids (who already have dog allergies) to the protein from dogs caused asthma symptoms to occur. However, exposing the kids to the fur which contained bacteria and other environmental antigens had a protective effect that lessened the asthma symptoms.

The second study conducted by allergists Drs. Cheema and Zoratti looked at the progression of allergic disease. Infants often start with eczema then progress to food allergies then nasal allergies and finally asthma. This study found that infants exposed to dogs during pregnancy had a reduced risk of having eczema by age 2.

The bottom line for parents on whether to have dogs in their home or not depends upon the family members allergies. If a child reacts to the specific dog allergen or protein, then reducing their exposure is recommended by the ACAAI. If a child has asthma, then having a dog in the home should help based on these studies. It is important that the dog goes outside every day to bring the outdoors inside in small doses.

Sources:

-‘Dogs may protect against childhood eczema and asthma’. American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, IMMUNOLOGY, Oct. 10, 2017

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