Children exposed to pet cats or indoor dogs during foetal development or early infancy tended to have fewer food allergies compared to other children, according to a study.
The study showed that among children exposed to indoor dogs and cats, there was a significantly reduced incidence of food allergies, though there was no significant difference for children in households with outdoor dogs.
Children exposed to indoor dogs were significantly less likely to experience egg, milk, and nut allergies specifically and children exposed to cats were significantly less likely to have egg, wheat, and soybean allergies.
The findings are from a study published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Hisao Okabe from the Fukushima Regional Center in Japan.
For the study, the team analysed more than 65,000 infants from Japan.A
About 22 per cent were exposed to pets during the foetal period (most commonly indoor dogs and cats).
However, surprisingly, children exposed to hamsters (0.9 per cent of the total group studied) had significantly greater incidence of nut allergies.
The data used here were self-reported (supplemented by medical record data gathered during the first trimester of pregnancy, at delivery, and at the one-month check-up), so relies on the accurate recall of participants.
While the study cannot determine if the link between pet exposure and food allergy incidence is causative, still, it suggests that these results can help guide future research into the mechanisms behind childhood food allergies, the researchers said.
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