Research shows pets help protect children against asthma

For many years, doctors and researchers have stated that young children shouldn’t be exposed to pets because it might cause asthma. Today, some research is showing otherwise. Recent research has actually shown that having pets in the house can actually help prevent allergies in young children.

An article in the Independent (a newspaper out of Dublin, Ireland), stated that, ” Dr James Martin, a consultant respiratory physician, said it appeared exposure during the first year of life to certain allergens could lessen the risk of developing allergies.” Is there truth in his statement. I decided to do a little research, since the majority opinion on this subject seems to be a decidedly, “No.”

A study conducted in 2003, by Professor Rüdiger von Kries at the Institute for Social Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine in Müchen, Germany, showed that there was no clear association between exposure in infancy to furred animals and a prevalence to asthma and hay fever at school entry (Oberle, 2003). However, the study did find that children who are intensely exposed to cats (cats allowed in the child’s room, etc) have a significantly reduced risk for asthma and atopic wheezing as compared to children who do not have pets.

Children who are raised on a farm have a significantly reduced risk of asthma, eczema, and hayfever, this is consistent with the “hygiene hypothesis,” which totes that childhood allergy risk is immunologically modulated early in life by exposure to infectious agents (Merchant, 2005). So, essentially, this statement means, exposure to the allergens helps the child build up an immunity against them.

While there are more and more studies being done on allergen exposure in young children, opinions on the matter still differ, depending on who you talk to. So for now, you might want to wait before giving your pet up for an adoption due to an allergy. Talk with your doctor and your veterinarian to find the solution that works best for you.

Have you had to give up a pet due to an allergy? Do you think that having pets helps prevent the development of allergies later in life? I want to hear your stories and opinions!


Merchant, James A., etal., (2005). Asthma and Farm Exposures in a Cohort of Rural Iowa Children. Evnrionmental Health Perspectives, 113(3), 350(6).

Oberle, D. etal., (2003). Childhood asthma and continuous exposure to cats since the first year of life with cats allowed in the bedroom. Allergy. 58(10), 1033(3).


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