Less food allergy in children who grow up with dogs or cats

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Children who grow up with a dog or cat appear to be less susceptible to food allergies. A hamster in the house is associated with a greater chance of a nut allergy. That appears from a studyamong more than 65,000 Japanese babies.

Increase in food allergy

The number of children with food allergies has risen sharply in recent decades. In some Western countries, more than 10 percent of children now suffer from a medically diagnosed food allergy. It is still unclear why children increasingly develop a food allergy, but increased hygiene probably plays an important role. To find out whether pets reduce the chance of developing certain food allergies, the researchers analyzed data from the Japan Environment and Children’s Studya nationwide prospective birth cohort study that included 67,413 mothers and infants. The study results show that children who were exposed to a dog or cat during fetal development or early childhood were about 15 percent less likely to develop food allergies than children who grew up without a pet.

Cats and dogs compared

The researchers also found that there are differences between having a pet dog or cat and the risk of different types of food allergy. According to the study results, dogs as pets are associated with a lower risk of egg, cow’s milk and nut allergies. Children who grow up with a cat not only have a lower risk of developing an allergy to egg, but also a lower risk of an allergy to wheat and soy. According to the researchers, what exactly causes these differences is still unclear, but it may be related to a different effect on the gut microbiome or to endotoxins (cell wall remnants of bacteria) that float through the air.

Hamsters and Nut Allergy

According to the findings, not all pets are associated with a lower risk of developing food allergies. Children who have a hamster as a pet (0.9 percent of the total group studied) appear to have a greater chance of developing a nut allergy. This may have to do with the fact that hamsters feed on nuts. According to the researchers, the risk of developing a nut allergy can be minimized if other family members wash their hands thoroughly after contact with the hamster. The researchers warn to keep hamsters away from babies.

Source: CNN Health

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