Worried About Eczema? Get A Dog, But Not A Cat
Children with eczema may benefit from having a dog, while having a cat may have negative effects, say researchers from the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine. Eczema, which most commonly occurs during childhood, but can sometimes persist into adulthood, is a chronic (long-term) condition that causes the skin to dry and become irritated. This latest study’s findings have been published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Pediatrics.
Corresponding study author, Tolly Epstein, MD, assistant professor at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine, said:
The number of children with allergic eczema is rising, but the reasons for this are unclear. Our research suggests that exposure to dog allergens early in life may actually have a protective effect against developing future allergies among a high-risk population.
University of Cincinnati researchers, along with investigators from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center found that a child who tests positive for dog allergies has a much lower risk of developing eczema at the age of 4 years if he/she has had a dog in the household before the age of 1. On the other hand, children who did not have a dog in the household and tested positive for dog allergies were four times more likely to develop the skin condition.
In this study, the investigators collected data related to 636 children who had enrolled in the Cincinnati Childhood Allergy and Air Pollution Study (CCAAPS), an epidemiology study that examined the effects of environmental particulates of allergy and respiratory health of children. The 636 children were considered at high risk for developing allergies because their parents had allergies.
The investigators were looking out for a link between pet ownership – specifically cats and dogs – and the risk of developing eczema. The children were tested every year, from the day they were born, for 17 different allergies, including foods, airborne allergens, and environmental exposures, such as diesel particulates. The children’s parents also reported on the child’s allergy symptoms and illnesses.
The study revealed that dog ownership tended to have a beneficial effect on the children with dog allergies, while cats had a negative effect on those with cat allergies.
Children who owned a cat before age 1 and were allergic to cats based on allergy skin testing were 13 times more likely to develop eczema by age 4. However, children who were not allergic to cats were not at an increased risk for eczema if they owned a cat.
The researchers hope that this study may help parents of children who are considered at high risk of eventually developing eczema when choosing a pet.