As if you needed any excuse to get yourself a four-legged companion, or give the one you currently have a boop on the nose and scratch on the belly for being very good, new research suggests that dogs may help protect children from developing not only eczema but also asthma. Weirdly, this was found to be the case even if a child was known to be allergic to the animals, but only in certain situations.
Researchers wanted to see if the presence of a dog in houses had any impact on these childhood conditions. Eczema is often more common in children than in adults, and causes the skin to become dry, red and itchy, while asthma is more commonly found in children living in urban environments.
From this, two studies looked at how exposure to dogs at different points of development contributed. Both papers have been presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting.
“Although eczema is commonly found in infants, many people don't know there is a progression from eczema to food allergies to nasal allergies and asthma,” explained allergist Gagandeep Cheema, who led the first study looking into the impacts of dogs on eczema. “We wanted to know if there was a protective effect in having a dog that slowed down that progress.”
The study led by Cheema looked at the incidence of eczema in children whose mothers were exposed to dogs for at least an hour a day while pregnant. “We found a mother's exposure to dogs before the birth of a child is significantly associated with lower risk of eczema by age 2 years, but this protective effect goes down at age 10,” said co-author Edward M. Zoratti.
In the second piece of research, looking at the impact that dogs have on childhood asthma, the results were a little more complicated. It studied the effect that two different types of canine exposure had on children with asthma, with the first being a protein that affects kids with allergies to dogs, and the second being bacteria found on the dog’s fur.
They found that the non-allergen bacteria seemed to have a protective effect against asthma symptoms for children, but the protein made the symptoms worse. This mixed result means that exposure to the animals themselves is probably not recommended for those with asthma who are allergic, but could possibly provide a new therapy to help ease symptoms by using the bacteria.
So the floofy friends in our lives may be having a positive effect on our health, and that of our children. Who's a good boy?