By Jonathan Bor, The Baltimore Sun, August 28, 2002
The truth about cat and dog allergies might be the opposite of what experts have long suspected, a new study says. Raising children alongside the furry companions might reduce rather than increase the likelihood that they will break out in itching and sneezing fits.
Not only that, but the study of 474 youngsters in suburban Detroit found that those raised from birth in households with two or more cats or dogs also were less likely to develop allergies to pollen, mold and grasses.
The finding, to appear in today's edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), challenges conventional wisdom about pet allergies, which holds that children are more likely to develop reactions the more they are exposed to the animals.
"For 30 years, physicians in general have been taught that early exposure to cats and dogs is more likely to increase the risk that a child will develop an allergy to cats and dogs," said Dr. Dennis Ownby, an allergist with the Medical College of Georgia, who directed the study.
"What we found was just the opposite."
The finding, although preliminary, suggests an early dose of dog or cat dander might somehow tweak the immune system to keep it from mounting the exaggerated response to irritants that can cause allergic symptoms.
Evidence from this and other studies should come as a relief to pet-loving parents who wondered whether they should kick their animals out before bringing a child into the home, Ownby said.
"There are many different factors a family has to consider," Ownby said, including a pet's cost and the risk of animal bites, "but I think pets in the home may have a clear beneficial effect in terms of reducing the allergy risk."
Spring, 2004: A new study published by the National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Disease suggests that babies raised in homes with two or more cats or dogs are less likely to develop pet and other common allergies later in childhood.
A Note From Four On The Floor's Founder: I took up to five shots a week for more than twenty-four years for severe allergies and asthma, spending lots of time in hospital emergency rooms, too, and can tell you that when Julie and I began rescuing cats & dogs, my asthma and allergies lessened by something like 95%. I highly concur with the study's findings! We get SO terribly tired of people asking us to take their pets because they're "having a baby and the doctor recommended that we get rid of our cat (or dog)." What a crock. Please spread the word to anyone who brings it up that this type of advice has been scientifically proven to be nonsense.