According to a Swedish study, researchers have discovered a link between asthma and pets, but not in the way we would assume.
Researchers suggest that exposure to a dog in the first year of a child’s life was linked to a 13% lower risk of asthma in later years.
The study, that followed 650,000 children, supported the idea that pets can bolster the immune system of children, from a young age and act to prevent allergy rather than aggravate them, in certain cases.
The study maintains that these findings apply to children who are exposed to pets from a young age and will be the basis of future study into allergies in children.
The researches also maintain that buying a dog or cat for a child who is already allergic would not have the same effects.
However, the children who grew up with a dog in their home were found to be less likely to develop asthma by the age of seven, than those who were raised in homes with no pets.
Similarly, those who grew up on farms with large populations of animals has their risk reduced by around 50%.
“Our results confirmed the farming effect and we also saw that children who grew up with dogs had about 15% less asthma than children without dogs,” said lead scientist Professor Tove Fall, from Uppsala University in Sweden.
These findings follow the same vein of research that favours exposure to dust and dirt from a young age, in order to reduce our risk of common allergies.
“That’s important information for parents who are pregnant or are planning to have a baby, that they should not worry about getting a dog or a puppy if they would like to.
“But if you have an allergic child you should not get a dog to cure your child. It won’t work and will probably make the allergy worse.”
Amena Warner of Allergy UK told the BBC: “There have been a few studies that have alluded to this but not such a longitudinal study with so many children so from that point of view this is quite a powerful study. It’s very welcome.”