“Having a pet in the house during the first year of a child’s life could halve the risk of them becoming allergic to the animals, a study suggests,” reported the Daily Mail.
This story is based on a study that followed 566 children from birth up to the age of 18 years. It found that exposure to a cat in the first year of life was associated with a halved risk of having an immune system that was sensitised to cat allergens. The findings for dogs were more complicated, with the link between exposure and reduced risk of later sensitisation found in boys only.
This study used an appropriate design for investigating the link, but it also has some limitations that make it difficult to state conclusively that childhood pet exposure reduces the risk of allergies later. Only about half of those eligible participated, and the numbers analysed were relatively small. The way the researchers did their analyses also made it difficult to assess whether other factors might be influencing the results.
Although the results of this study are not conclusive, they do suggest that early childhood exposure to a dog or cat is not likely to make a person more allergic to these animals as an adult. However, much larger studies will be needed to confirm the findings …