Dogs help children’s allergies

Dogs prevent children getting allergies, a new study has revealed. Children living with a dog in the house are less sensitive to allergens in the early years, according to the study.

Scientists for the European Respiratory Journal conclude that growing up with a dog in the house is thought to train the immune system, making children less sensitive to asthma, eczema and hay fever.

The German study, which lasted six years and involved 9,000 children, comes after the chief vet’s recent warning that dogs should be banned from the bedroom because of the bacteria they carry.

Joachim Heinrich of the National Research Centre for Environmental Health in Munich, said: ‘Our results show clearly that the presence of a dog in the home during subjects’ infancy is associated with a significantly low level of sensitisation to pollens and inhaled allergens.’

Children were tested from birth to the age of six, and were not asked to remember anything, which is said to make for fairer results.

Professor Heinrich said however, that although children raised in households with dogs had blood that indicated that they were less likely to develop allergies, in real life they were actually no less likely to develop allergies than a child in a household without a dog.

‘It is not crystal clear why this is so,’ said Professor Heinrich, adding that it may be in later life that the actual benefits materialise.

The study did say, however, that early exposure to dogs mean that children are likely to be less sensitive to allergens in the early years.

See Country Life tomorrow for a special feature on Labradors.

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