Parents have long known that their family pets provide companionship
and affection to their children, teach them responsibility, and help
them develop empathy for others. But reduce the risk of allergies?
According to research performed by Dr. Dennis Ownby, children exposed
to two or more dogs or cats during the first year of life had less than
half the chance of developing allergies later in life than children
exposed to only one or no pets during their first year.
striking finding here is that high pet exposure early in life appears
to protect against not only pet allergy but also other types of
common allergies, such as allergy to dust mites, ragweed, and grass,"
said Marshall Plaut, M.D., of the National Institute of Allergy
and Infectious Diseases. "Other studies have suggested a protective
effect of pet exposure on allergy and asthma symptoms, but generally
have looked only at whether pet exposure reduced pet allergy. This
new finding changes the way scientists think about pet exposure;
scientists must now figure out how pet exposure causes a general
shift of the immune system away from an allergic response."