Dogs may protect against childhood eczema, reduce asthma symptoms: New studies

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Dogs are commonly hailed as "human's best friend." And two new studies show that there are many other reasons to cherish your dog as they may provide a protective effect against eczema and reduce asthma symptoms, particularly among children.
 
Dogs are the top choice when it comes to household pets in the United States. According to the Humane Society of the United States, about 54.4 million U.S. households own at least one canine companion.
 
The two new studies, presented this week at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) Annual Scientific Meeting in Boston, show that exposure to dogs during early life may protect against eczema and reduce asthma symptoms in childhood.
 
The first study shows a mother's exposure to dogs before the birth of a child is significantly associated with lower risk of eczema by age two years, though the protective effect goes down by age 10.
 
"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," allergist Gagandeep Cheema, lead author, was quoted as saying in a news release. "We wanted to know if there was a protective effect in having a dog that slowed down that progress."
 
The study examined mother-child pairs exposed to a dog. "Exposure" was defined as keeping one or more dogs indoors for at least one hour daily.
 
A second study shows dogs may provide a protective effect against asthma, even in children allergic to dogs.
 
"Among urban children with asthma who were allergic to dogs, spending time with a dog might be associated with two different effects," said lead author Po-Yang Tsou. "There seems to be a protective effect on asthma of non-allergen dog-associated exposures, and a harmful effect of allergen exposure."
 
The researchers believe that a child's contact with factors other than dog allergen, such as bacteria or other unknown factors, may provide the protective effect.
 
"However, dog allergen exposure remains a major concern for kids who are allergic to dogs," says Dr. Tsou.
 
In the study, researchers examined the effects of two different types of dog exposure on children with asthma in Baltimore, a city in the U.S. state of Maryland. 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 results revealed 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.
 
There are other studies reported earlier this year, showing that dog may boost owners' physical activity levels and have lower stress levels.

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