The surprising way to cut your child’s allergy risk in half

If you worry that having pets around your kids could make them allergic, you can breathe easy: A new study found that children younger than 1 who live with dogs or cats may actually be 50% less likely to be allergic to pets.


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The authors of the study, published in the new issue of the journal Clinical & Experimental Allergy (read an abstract), followed more than 560 children from birth to age 18.

They found that boys and girls who lived with cats before age 1 were 50% less likely than those who had not lived with cats to develop cat allergies by adulthood.

When it came to dogs, the same phenomenon held true — but only for boys. Girls who lived with dogs before age 1 did not see a decreased risk.

Interestingly, having a pet after age 1 did not affect the kids’ allergy risk. “The first year of life is the critical period during childhood when indoor exposure to dogs or cats influences sensitization [allergic response] to these animals,” the authors write.

Although the research is still new and far from conclusive, it should ease the minds of parents with both kids and pets. Of course, if you or anyone in your household is allergic to pets, check out our tips for living with pet allergies.

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More on this new allergy study:

MSNBC: Baby’s First Pet May Protect Against Allergies

ABC News: Childhood Pets Might Lower Risk of Future Allergies

NHS Choices: Do Childhood Pets Affect Allergy Risk?