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Tag: allergens

Two new studies show dogs can protect children from allergies, eczema

SONY DSC Even before your human baby is born, having a dog in the house can protect him or her against developing allergic eczema.

According to a study presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting, babies born in a home with a dog during pregnancy receive protection from allergic eczema, at least in their early years.

The study was one on two presented at the conference in Boston dealing with protections dogs provide to children with allergies — even allergies to dogs.

In the second study, researchers examined the effects of two different types of dog exposure on children with asthma in Baltimore, according to Medical News Today.

The first type was the protein, or allergen, that affects children who are allergic to dogs. The second type were elements, such as bacteria, that a dog might carry.

The researchers concluded that exposure to the elements that dogs carry may have a protective effect against asthma symptoms. But exposure to the allergen may result in more asthma symptoms among urban children with dog allergy.

“Among urban children with asthma who were allergic to dogs, spending time with a dog might be associated with two different effects,” says Po-Yang Tsou, MD, MPH, lead author. “There seems to be a protective effect on asthma of non-allergen dog-associated exposures, and a harmful effect of allergen exposure.”

In the first study, led by ACAAI member Dr. Gagandeep Cheema, researchers investigated how exposure to dogs before birth influenced the risk of childhood eczema.

Eczema is a condition characterized by rashes and patches of dry, itchy skin, most commonly on the hands, feet, face, elbows and knees.

While the causes of eczema remain unclear, it is believed to arise when the immune system overreacts in response to certain allergens or irritants.

“Although eczema is commonly found in infants, many people don’t know there is a progression from eczema to food allergies to nasal allergies and asthma,” Cheema said in a press release. “We wanted to know if there was a protective effect in having a dog that slowed down that progress.”

“We found a mother’s exposure to dogs before the birth of a child is significantly associated with lower risk of eczema by age 2 years, but this protective effect goes down at age 10,” says allergist Edward M. Zoratti, MD, ACAAI member and a study co-author.

(A girl and her dog in Baltimore, by John Woestendiek)

Gluten sniffing dog “gave me my life back”

can-dogs-smell-gluten

Like many others who suffer from Celiac disease — the most severe form of gluten allergy — Dawn Scheu tried to avoid products containing glutens, store aisles with products containing glutens, and even entire stores where glutens might be lurking.

The last time she “got contaminated,” she said, she spent 10 weeks in and out of the hospital and nearly lost her life.

Now, thanks to a dog, she says she has gotten her life back.

glutendog10To that ever growing list of what dog noses can learn to detect — from bedbugs to cadavers, hidden drugs to impending seizures, explosives to whale poop — it appears we may be able to add glutens.

As Scheu sees it, Celiac sufferers seeking a way to live a normal life may find the answer is “as easy as adopting a dog,” WZZM reports.

Not quite.

One still needs to factor in the training time (six months or more), and the costs of training (as much as $50,000).

And one should bear in mind that Scheu, in addition to being a client of Nosey Dog Detection Partners, is also a partner.

Scheu, who has worked with search and rescue dogs, went in search of a trainer willing to train a dog to sniff out gluten – specifically her dog, a German Shorthaired Pointer named Willow.

“I called 18 companies and trainers before I called Kathy and Kathy said she would try it.”

Dog trainer Kathy Watters initially had doubts. “My thoughts were if there’s gluten everywhere how am I going to train it. It’s in your bird food, it’s in your bug spray, it’s in the Ziploc baggy, the glue.”

After a month of training, Willow appeared to be able to detect glutens, Watters said. Six months later, Scheu says, “I can go out to eat I can do things that I couldn’t do before.”

Willow wasn’t the first dog in America to be trained to detect gluten. A Missouri dog named Elias has been doing it since 2011.

But their own experience led Scheu and Watters to establish Nosey Dog Detection Partners.

Their first customer, though, was seeking to have their family dog, Skittles, trained as a red dye 40 sniffing dog.

Scheu and Watters are working with the family to train Skittles to help eight year old Elizabeth Martin avoid any items containing red dye 40, which the girl has a severe allergic reaction to.

Nosey Dog also plans to train service dogs for veterans with post traumatic stress disorder, people with peanut allergies, as well as diabetic alert dogs and autism assistance dogs.

(Photo: Dave Wasinger / Lansing State Journal)

How to (ah) choose a hypoallergenic dog

Goldendoodle

Goldendoodle

Despite all the buzz about “hypoallergenic dogs” since the Obamas indicated they may get one, there are no breeds that are truly free of potential allergens, some medical experts say.

“I don’t think there is such a thing as a hypoallergenic dog,” allergy and asthma expert Corinna Bowser (really, BOWSER!) of Havertown, Pa. told WebMD.

While there are countless websites devoted to “hypoallergenic dogs,” the Obamas could find it difficult to find one to which their older daughter, Malia, won’t have an allergic reaction.

Bowser explains that the major allergen in dogs is a protein found in dog serum, and dogs excrete that allergen in sweat and shed it from their skin. “It also gets secreted into the saliva, and possibly a little bit in the urine,” Bowser says.

Since all dogs have that protein, no dog is completely allergy-free, according to Bowser.

She said a German study, published this year, tracked allergies among people exposed to various dog breeds and found that factors related to individual dogs seem to influence the “allergenicity” more than breed or gender.

Breeds commonly cited as hypoallergenic include the poodle, (and several poodle hybrids, like the goldendoodle), Bichon Frise, Maltese, Yorkshire Terrier, Portugese Water Dog, Schnauzer, West Highland Terrier, Basenji, Airedale Terrier, and our good friend, the Xoloitzcuintli.

Smaller dogs, and short-haired breeds might be less risky, Bowser said. “Hair length could have something to do with how it spreads in the house,” she said, explaining that shorter dog hairs may not stick as much as long hair to furniture, clothes, and other surfaces.

Bowser went on to say that if she was the Obama family doctor, “I would say it’s probably better not to get a dog.”

“Of course, now he made the promise and he kind of has to,” she said. Bowser recommends that before they get a dog of their own the Obama family dog-sit to see how Malia’s allergies fare, and set some rules about how they’ll handle any allergy issues.