Kids who live in a home with at least 2 dogs or cats for the first year of their life are half as likely to become allergic to them than kids who grow up with only one dog or cat, or none. These new findings contradict traditional medical advice that pets cause allergies in children. Dennis Ownby, of the Medical College of Georgia, says, “Evidence is mounting that the opposite is true. These parents don’t have to feel guilty that they are increasing their child’s risk for allergies or asthma.” Exposure to two dogs or cats also cuts the risk of developing other allergies, to things like dust mites and pollen.

Ownby looked at the home environments of 474 healthy children, starting at 1 year of age and continuing until they were 6 or 7 years old. At the end of the study period, all of the children were tested for common allergies to dust mites, dogs, cats, ragweed and blue grass. Sensitivity was measured by evaluating a child’s skin reaction after being given a skin prick test with the allergen.

Only 15.4% of the children who started life with two cats or dogs showed sensitivity to these animals, while the percentage of children with one dog or cat, or no pets, who had a positive skin test for a dog or cat allergy was about 34%. Kids born into homes with two cats or dogs were also half as likely to test positive for the allergens, compared with children with fewer or no pets. The results support previous research showing that children who grow up on farms, especially with farm animals, have fewer allergies.

Ownby thinks increased exposure to common bacteria and their byproducts causes the developing immune system to become less allergy-prone. Doctors now feel that the development of a healthy immune system, rather than protecting a child from allergens, is the best way to avoid childhood allergies.

What accepted wisdom will scientists overturn next? One way to find out is to consult the stars?but you have to know how. Find out from ?Signs of the Times? by Ray Grasse, click here.

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