Create Account | Sign In: Author or Forum

 
News  |  Journals  |  Conferences  |  Blogs  |  Articles  |  Forums  |  Twitter    
 
Category: Dermatology | Family Medicine | Allergy | News

Back to Health News

A Dog May Help Guard Against Childhood Eczema

Last Updated: September 30, 2010.

 

But study found cats did not give the same protection

Share |

Comments: (0)

Tell-a-Friend

 

  Related
 
But study found cats did not give the same protection.

By Ellin Holohan
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Sept. 30 (HealthDay News) -- Man's best friend protects against eczema in young children, but his nemesis, the cat, does not, new research shows.

Children with a dog in the home at age 1 had a significantly reduced risk of eczema at age 4, but children who had a cat were more likely to have the ailment at the same age, the study found. Dog ownership also conferred protection against becoming allergic to cats.

"It's speculative, but possible that the protective effect is due to a sort of natural immunotherapy where children who are exposed to dogs become tolerant over time in the same way that people on allergy shots develop tolerance to allergens," said study author Dr. Tolly Epstein, an assistant professor in the division of immunology, allergy and rheumatology at the University of Cincinnati Medical School.

Or, dog allergens may have other effects on the immune system that are not yet understood, she added.

The study was done using newborns in the Cincinnati area whose parents had allergies or eczema, making the children more likely to develop the condition. Skin tests were done to see which infants were allergic to dogs and cats, regardless of whether their families had either.

Eczema is an itchy skin inflammation and may be associated with allergies (atopic eczema) or not (non-atopic eczema), Epstein explained. Between 15 percent and 30 percent of children have had eczema, which can come and go, or disappear by a certain age. Both genetics and environment are thought to play key roles in the development of the condition.

Epstein said eczema rates have risen dramatically in the past 30 years, and researchers want to understand the causes.

The study found that children who tested positive for a dog allergy and did not live with a dog had four times the risk of getting eczema than those who tested positive and did own a dog by age 4. People can test positive for an allergy but not have any symptoms, according to experts.

The higher the dog allergen levels were in the homes, the lower the risk was for the child developing eczema by age 4, according to the study.

Most of the 636 children in the study were white. Among the 131 black children, few had dogs as pets, but those whose families got a cat by the time they were age 1 were 12 times more likely to have eczema at age 4. However, due to the small numbers, the results were not significant.

The study also looked at the association between eczema and eggs, milk and nuts, some of the most common food allergies in infants. Some experts recommend delaying common allergic foods as a strategy to protect children against allergies but the study findings did not support that.

"We tend to be so focused on food allergies with young children, but the study showed aeroallergens [airborne allergens such as pet dander or auto emissions] may be more important than has been previously understood," Epstein said.

The study found that delaying the introduction of eggs into infants' diets may have no impact on their risk for getting eczema in later years, with some indication that it benefited babies when introduced early. However, those findings were not statistically significant. Findings relating to nuts also were inconclusive.

Diet guidelines for infants recommend no solid foods until 6 months, with serial introduction after that to monitor the effect, said Dr. Wanda Phipatanakul, an associate physician at Children's Hospital in Boston.

Phipatanakul said the study, published in an upcoming print issue of the Journal of Pediatrics, was carefully done, but was not definitive. Other research had shown conflicting results on the impact of cats and dogs, she said.

"The jury is still out," said Phipatanakul, who is also an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. "I don't think anyone, including the authors, is saying to go get a few dogs, or don't get a cat to reduce your risk."

People with allergies should avoid what causes their allergies, "or you will keep getting symptoms," she said.

"They did a lot of advanced analyses and looked at it [the data] in detail," Phipatanakul said, adding that she encourages more research to help doctors "learn more and employ better interventions or strategies."

More information

For more on eczema, go to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

SOURCES: Wanda Phipatanakul, M.D., M.S., associate physician, Children's Hospital, Boston, and assistant professor, pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, Board Certification(s), Allergy/Immunology, Pediatrics Clinical Medicine, Children's Hospital, Boston; Tolly Epstein, M.D., assistant professor, clinical medicine, division of immunology, allergy and rheumatology, University of Cincinnati Medical School; Sept. 30, 2010, Journal of Pediatrics, online

Copyright © 2010 HealthDay. All rights reserved.


Previous: 9% of U.S. Adults Suffer From Depression: CDC Next: Blacks More Likely to Die in Motorcycle Crash Than Whites

Reader comments on this article are listed below. Review our comments policy.


Submit your opinion:

Name:

Email:

Location:

URL:

Remember my personal information

Notify me of follow-up comments?

advertisement.gif (61x7 -- 0 bytes)
 

Are you a Doctor, Pharmacist, PA or a Nurse?

Join the Doctors Lounge online medical community

  • Editorial activities: Publish, peer review, edit online articles.

Doctors Lounge Membership Application

 
     

 advertisement.gif (61x7 -- 0 bytes)

 

 

Useful Sites
MediLexicon
  Tools & Services: Follow DoctorsLounge on Twitter Follow us on Twitter | RSS News | Newsletter | Contact us
Copyright © 2001-2014
Doctors Lounge.
All rights reserved.

Medical Reference:
Diseases | Symptoms
Drugs | Labs | Procedures
Software | Tutorials

Advertising
Links | Humor
Forum Archive
CME | Conferences

Privacy Statement
Terms & Conditions
Editorial Board
About us | Email

This website is certified by Health On the Net Foundation. Click to verify. This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information:
verify here.