Children born into a home with pets have lower levels of allergic antibodies

A study reported in an upcoming issue of The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (JACI), evaluated  the level of allergic antibodies  from birth to 2 years of age in children born into households that kept a pet cat or dog.

Using the population-based Wayne County Health, Environment Allergy and Asthma Longitudinal Study (WHEALS) birth cohort from southeastern Michigan, they analyzed one to four measurements of total IgE in  1,187 infants collected from birth to 2 years of age. Effects of prenatal dog and cat exposure on the shape and pattern of IgE throughout early life were then assessed.

Overall, children from homes with pets had a total IgE  that was an estimated 28% lower then children from  homes without pets. This protective effect of pet exposure was stronger within children born by caesarean section. It is hoped that future studies to  understand the potentially protective effect of prenatal pet exposure will lead to new treatments.

Parents should be aware that other studies have shown that, once a child has become sensitized (“allergic”) to cat or dog  dander, further exposure to a pet can lead to  more severe allergy and asthma symptoms.