What parents need to know

It is best to have a dog as your first “baby” before having children. “Families need to know that there are several studies of early exposure in infancy and the first year that show that dogs have a protective effect on the development of eczema and other allergic diseases, including allergic rhinitis and even asthma“, explains Maguiness. “And having more than one dog is even more protective,” she says. While research is mixed, a study, published in April 2020 in Pediatric allergy and immunologyconcluded that infants who lived with dogs had a 40% lower risk of asthma, a 28% lower risk of allergic rhinitis, and a 23% lower risk of atopic sensitization (meaning the children produced an antibody in response to an allergen, but they did not). (I don’t necessarily have an allergic reaction to this product) at the age of 5.

Maguiness highlights study of more than 1,300 three-month-old infants in one food allergy prevention trial. Published in the European Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology in May 2019, research found that infants living with dogs were 90 percent less likely to develop a food allergy. This study noted that there was no link between pet ownership and atopic dermatitis. Yet all of these diseases belong to what is known as the “atopic triad,” a group of allergic diseases, including allergic rhinitis, asthma and eczema, that often occur at the same time.

Research on cats is less clear, Maguiness says. “A few studies show cats may have a protective effect, while others show it makes allergies worse,” she explains.


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