Dog Ownership Reduces Risk of Eczema in Dog-Sensitive Children

Allergic kids exposed to dogs, but not cats, have attenuated eczema risk at 4 years of age
By Lindsey Marcellin
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Oct. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Early household exposure to dogs in children who are dog-sensitized results in a four-fold decreased risk of eczema, but early exposure to cats in cat-sensitive children sharply increases the risk of eczema, according to a report published online Oct. 1 in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Tolly G. Epstein, M.D., of the University of Cincinnati, and colleagues conducted a study of 636 infants of atopic parents who were followed with annual clinical evaluations and skin prick tests (SPTs) to allergens. Parents completed validated surveys on eczema and allergic exposures. The purpose of the study was to assess risk factors for eczema at 4 years of age.

The researchers found that, at age 4, 14 percent of children had eczema. Children who were dog SPT+ at age 1, 2, or 3 years, but did not have a dog before age 1 had a nearly four-fold increased risk of eczema. Dog SPT+ children with a dog in the household before age 1, however, did not have a significantly increased risk of eczema. In contrast, having a household cat before age 1 combined with cat-SPT positivity significantly increased the risk of eczema (adjusted odds ratio, 13.3).

"In conclusion, in this prospective birth cohort involving children of atopic parents, an interaction between pet ownership and pet sensitization was discovered that has not been previously reported. Early dog ownership attenuated the risk for eczema among children who are sensitive to dogs and early cat ownership accentuated the association between cat sensitization and eczema," the authors write.

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