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Dogs May Lower Risk of Childhood Eczema

Dogs May Lower Risk of Childhood Eczema

Having a dog at home can reduce your chances of developing atopic dermatitis (AD). That’s the finding in recent studies that show dogs may be more than just pets. The old saying “A dog is a man’s best friend” generally refers to loyalty, compassion and unconditional love. Having a dog around may also help keep you happy and healthy; you are less likely to experience loneliness, allergies or have depression.

For children, prenatal exposure to dogs may even have a positive impact on future health. Children born to mothers who were exposed to dogs during pregnancy were less likely to develop eczema by the age of 2, said Dr. Gagandeep Cheema in a recent study.1

Happiness is a warm puppy

That is what Charles M. Schulz, the creator of Peanuts said. Dogs are the most common
household pets in the United States. Dogs are social, spirited, cuddly and playful. They can be helpers and lifesavers. Most owners consider them another member of the family. But science demonstrates there are even more reasons to have a dog. People with dogs tend to exercise more when walking their dogs. That can contribute to generally good physical fitness and lower blood pressure. Having a dog can lower your stress level and offer companionship. It turns out having a dog may also have a protective effect and reduce the likelihood of developing allergies or asthma (unless you are specifically allergic to dogs).

Atopic Dermatitis (AD) refers to a collection of inflammatory skin conditions that cause dry, itchy, and scaly patches on the skin. ( dermatitis-eczema/) It can range from mild to severe. It often runs in families and can be an allergic response to an irritant that causes the immune system to overreact.1 The large majority of new cases of AD occur in children.

Benefits For Children Phase Out With Age

Studies presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI)
suggest that exposure to dogs early in life may stave off the development of childhood eczema and reduce symptoms of asthma.1 The protective benefits of early exposure identified in the study declined over time. By the time a child reached age 10, the protective resistance was gone.

Eczema, a common chronic condition in infants, can sometimes lead to other medical issues
including food allergies and asthma. Therefore the study examining protective effects has longer-term implications and provides reason for additional research.

In a second study, researchers examined the protective effects of dog exposure on children with asthma, even if they were allergic to dogs.2 This research conducted with city children in Baltimore looked at two separate components of dog exposure. In the first part of the study they examined the effects of the allergen (protein) that affects people who are allergic to dogs. For the second part researchers looked at elements of the environment, like bacteria, carried by the dogs.

It turns out that the dog protein may cause allergic reaction and symptoms of asthma. However, the environmental elements carried by dogs seemed to create a protective factor. Dr. Tsou, the lead author said “There seems to be a protective effect on asthma of non-allergen dog-associated exposures, and a harmful effect of allergen exposure.2

I Want a Dog!

Getting a dog if you have allergies, asthma or AD should be a decision you make along with the advice of your dermatologist or allergist. There are tips to keeping your house, your children, and your pets clean; and promoting a hypo-allergenic environment. Those will help make your pet a welcome and therapeutic addition to the family.

  1. Whiteman, H. Dogs may lower risk of childhood eczema, reduce asthma symptoms. Medical News today website. Published October 28, 2017. Accessed online November 9, 2017
  2. Dogs may protect against childhood eczema and asthma. ACAAI website. News release. Published October 27, 2017. protect-against- childhood-eczema- and- asthma. Accessed online November 10, 2017.