Many parents are busy disinfecting every inch of their home in preparation for the new bundle of joy, but nature seems to be quite effective as an immune booster for the new arrival. Though dogs are man’s best friend, it turns out they may be a best friend to babies as well.
Can dog ownership protect babies from allergies?
A large body of research suggests that early exposure to various bacteria carried by dogs may actually help children develop fewer allergies as adults. A large study conducted by Bill Hesslemar of Sweden’s University of Gothenburg looked at two previous studies covering about 1,280 children. Even when accounting for numerous outside factors, these studies found the reports of allergies in children decreased as the number of household pets increased.
In one of the studies analyzed, 49% of children with no pets in the home during their first 12 months of life had allergies. That number dropped to 43% for children who lived with at least one pet as a baby. The number dropped again to 24% of children who grew up around three pets. The study found that children lucky enough to spend their early childhood with five or more pets had no reports of allergies. Data from the study that Hesselmar analyzed, backs up these numbers, with kids who grew up with 2 or more pets showing less reports of allergies at eight and nine years old compared to children with no pets in the home.
Pet exposure may help reduce allergies, but it might be awhile to predict how this finding will play out in the future. Don’t rule out the “dog in a pill” as a preventive tool for allergies.
Hesselmar B, Hicke-Roberts A, Lundell AC, Adlerberth I, Rudin A, et al. (2018) Pet-keeping in early life reduces the risk of allergy in a dose-dependent fashion. PLOS ONE 13(12) e0208472. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0208472
Tun, H.M., Konya, T., Takaro, T.K. et al. Exposure to household furry pets influences the gut microbiota of infants at 3–4 months following various birth scenarios. Microbiome 5, 40 (2017). Retreived 28 August 2020. doi: https://doi.org/10.1186/s40168-017-0254-x
University of Alberta Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry. (2017, April 6). Pet exposure may reduce allergy and obesity: Research shows having a dog early in life may alter gut bacteria in immune-boosting ways. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 28, 2020 from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/04/170406143845.htm