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Tag: asthma

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)

Dogs may prevent, not cause, asthma in kids

Lau-in-labIf fears of triggering asthma are keeping you from getting a dog, you might want to reconsider.

University of Arizona researchers say having a dog in the home at the time of a child’s birth may actually decrease his or her chance of developing asthma. And the National Institutes of Health think it’s worth almost a million dollars to find out for sure.

Serrine Lau and a team of researchers at the University of Arizona College of Pharmacy have received a two-year, $937,000 challenge grant to study the issue.

“Several longitudinal studies have shown that exposure to certain domestic animals, for example, indoor dogs, during a person’s early life (even possibly before he or she is born) is associated with strong protection against asthma and asthma-related conditions later in life,” Lau said.

“The purpose of our research is to learn more about the biological mechanisms responsible for the protective effects of dog exposure. Conceivably, this could be a step toward someday leveraging these mechanisms for treatment or even preventive purposes.”

The team hypothesizes that exposure to dogs at an early age creates a “signature” (either the presence or the modification of a protein) in a child’s blood.

By comparing the signatures of children known to have been exposed to dogs at an early age with the signatures of children known not to have been exposed to dogs, and by noting the presence or absence of asthma in the children, the team hopes to learn more about how children exposed to dogs at an early age are protected from asthma.

(Photo: Courtesy of University of Arizona)