New Research Suggests Dogs Help With Eczema and Asthma in Children

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis
There are many benefits to having a dog as a family member, but two new studies are suggesting pets may also protect children from developing eczema.

Dr. Gagandeep Cheema is an allergy and immunology fellow at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan. He led a study that suggests having a dog in the house prenatally may help your child keep eczema away, at least until they are in their toddler years.

Dr. Cheema says that the disorder, which is characterized by dry, flaky and often unsightly patches, is typically a sign of an allergic condition, though research shows that allergic reactions do not always cause eczema. He and his colleagues looked at the data from 782 mothers and their children, particularly looking at prenatal exposure to dogs, and more specifically, where a dog spent at least an hour a day inside the home.

Related: Study: Dogs’ Immune Systems Leave Them Vulnerable As They Age

They found that when they compared children whose mothers had that prenatal exposure to dogs to children whose mothers did not, the risk of eczema was about half as high as in the children with no dog exposure. The data seemed to suggest this may have equaled out by age ten, but Dr. Cheema says continuing research and data gathering might change that suggestion.

Another study looked at people who lived with dogs, and asthma symptoms they believed were associated with substances found on their dogs. Dr. Po-Yang Tsou is with Johns Hopkins University, and he and his colleagues looked at 188 asthmatic children from Baltimore. They found that the non-allergen substances on dogs (like bacteria or dirt) seemed to take the need for an asthma inhaler down, and even reduced symptoms of asthma at night, while exposure to allergen-producing substances from dogs (like dander) increased the need for inhaler use, as well as increased nighttime asthma symptoms.

Dr. Tsou said that in urban children with asthma, particularly those allergic to dogs, spending time with a dog may be different based on the dog’s coat. In children who are allergic to dogs, obviously, exposure to dogs could be dangerous. However, it seemed that there was a protective impact on asthma when the children were exposed to dogs with non-allergen substances (like dirt) and a harmful effect when the substances were allergen-producing (like dander).

Related: Study: Exposure to Cats Can Reduce Childhood Asthma Rates

Dr. Cheema said that while research is still new, and it’s too early to tell people to increase exposure to dogs so they can prevent allergic issues from happening, he does say that for those who have dogs, it’s fair to say that their research shows the dog may protect the children in the home from asthma. Current research shows that children who have exposure to dogs benefit because it affects their microbiome positively. He said the more research they do on dogs, the more they realize how much dogs assist us, and how close our relationship is.

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

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