Paw! Owning a dog may reduce the risk of children getting eczema, a study suggests

Paw! Owning a dog may reduce the risk of children getting eczema, a study suggests

  • US researchers tracked eczema rates in 789 children whose parents had a dog
  • Contact with a dog has a “significant protective effect” against eczema
  • They said that dogs’ diverse bacteria could aid in children’s immune development

Owning a dog could help your future children — by reducing their risk of eczema, research suggests.

US experts tracked eczema rates in nearly 800 children under the age of two and whether their parents kept a dog in the home during pregnancy or the first year of their birth.

Exposure to a dog appeared to have a “significant protective effect” against the development of eczema in children, they claimed.

Researchers at Henry Ford Health in Detroit, Michigan found that exposure to a dog in early childhood has a

Researchers at Henry Ford Health in Detroit, Michigan found that exposure to a dog in early childhood has a “significant protective effect” against the development of eczema in children under the age of two

WHAT IS Eczema?

Eczema is an inflammatory condition of the skin that causes redness, blistering, oozing, scaling and thickening.

It usually occurs in the first few months of life and affects about 10 percent of babies.

The cause of eczema is not fully understood, but it is believed to be caused by the skin’s improper barrier to the outside world, allowing irritants and allergenic substances to penetrate.

It can be genetic due to the condition, which often runs in families.

In addition to affecting the skin, sufferers may experience insomnia and irritability.

Many factors can make eczema worse. This can include:

  • Heat, dust, soap and detergents
  • feeling unwell, such as a cold
  • infections
  • Dry skin
  • Emphasize

There is no cure for eczema, but 70 percent of children no longer have the condition by their teenage years.

Patients should avoid known flare-up triggers and use emollients.

Source: British Skin Foundation

The team at Henry Ford Health in Detroit, Michigan said the various bacteria found in dogs could help children’s immune development and ward off the disease.

Affecting up to one in five children and one in ten adults, eczema is an inflammatory condition that causes the skin to become itchy, dry and cracked.

Experts don’t know the exact cause, but believe it’s genetic and is caused by the skin’s barrier not working properly, allowing allergens to penetrate.

Exposure to bacteria in the first few months after birth can help a child develop a healthy immune system, potentially reducing inflammatory conditions like eczema, researchers said.

Research has shown that certain bacteria that can make eczema worse later in life can actually prevent the condition from occurring if a child is exposed to it earlier.

There is no cure, but the symptoms may disappear as the child gets older. Doctors recommend using moisturizers for dry skin and may prescribe topical corticosteroids to reduce swelling and itching during flare-ups.

Previous studies have shown that growing up with a dog may also help protect children from developing asthma, another inflammatory condition more common in those with eczema.

The latest research published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunologyrecruited pregnant women due between September 2003 and December 2007.

Doctors screened their children for eczema at ages two and ten to assess their history over time.

They were divided into four groups: those who never had it had it by age two but was resolved by age 10, had it persistent at both ages, and developed it by age 10.

Mothers were interviewed before birth and at the end of the study to determine if their children had been exposed to dogs in the womb and during the first year of life.

Just over a quarter (26 percent) of pregnant women kept a dog at home. Eczema rates were 22 percent by age two and 21 percent by age 10.

The results showed that children whose mothers had a dog around during pregnancy and during the first year of life had a significantly lower risk of developing the disease by the age of two.

But the effect was not seen at age 10 or in patients with persistent eczema.

dr Amy Eapen, an allergy expert who led the study, said the results suggest the first year of life is “potentially the critical window” for eczema prevention.

The researchers wrote in the journal: “Our data suggest that exposure of dogs before birth and early in life has a significant protective effect on eczema development at or before two years of age.

“Because pet ownership affects the microbial composition of the infant gut, the lower rate of eczema in children exposed to dogs may be related to altered early childhood immune development induced by microbial exposure.

“Clinically, our results suggest that prenatal exposure to dogs may protect against early eczema.”

They admitted they couldn’t prove exposure to a dog was behind the lower rates because the study was purely observational.

Parents with allergic conditions may avoid having pets, which skews the results.

The researchers also couldn’t unravel whether having a dog was important during pregnancy or during the child’s first year of life, since most couples kept their dogs after their baby was born.

advertisement Paw! Owning a dog may reduce the risk of children getting eczema, a study suggests

Bradford Betz

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