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Children, Allergies and Pets

Pets can actually help children avoid allergies!

Have you wondered whether you should allow your child to have a pet or not? Does your family have a history of allergies? Have you been told by your doctor that pets aren't a good idea for your children because they may cause allergies?

Parents have always been warned that pets can cause allergies in children. So many families have traditionally sacrificed the joys and benefits of pet ownership so that their children wouldn't be susceptible to allergies.

And this is perfectly understandable. After all, no loving parents wanted their children to have allergies, so the logical thing to do was to do without the pets.

But now there's some encouraging news from the Medical College of Georgia (MCG). Their recent study about pets and children (published in the Journal of the American Medical Association) indicates that having pets may actually help prevent allergies in your children!

Dr. Dennis R. Ownby, head of MCG's Department of Allergy and Immunology, has followed 474 babies from birth to age 7. He found that children who were exposed to two or more in-door pets were only half as likely to develop common allergies as those raised without pets.

"Allergists have been taught for several generations that cats and dogs in the house are a bad idea because they increase the risk of allergic reactions. We know that before you can become allergic to something, you must be repeatedly exposed to it."

He and his staff were just as surprised as everyone else at the results of their study! "The data simply didn't come out the way it was supposed to. It was actually the very opposite of what we expected to discover," said Ownby.

He believes that the reason so many children have allergies and asthma now is because we force them to live too clean a life.

"When children play with dogs and cats", he says, "they usually get licked. And that lick transfers lots of Gram-negative bacteria that may change the way the kid's immune system responds." The "lick" gives them exposure to higher levels of substances called "endotoxins," the breakdown toxin from the Gram-negative bacteria.

According to the article from the MCG, studies from Switzerland and Germany are confirming that the children of farmers, who are regularly exposed to animals, have fewer allergies than city kids.

You should discuss it with your physician, but it just may be that getting a pet or two would help boost your children's allergy resistance, in addition to all the other benefits they'll receive from their pets.

Susan Dunn holds an MA in Clinical Psychology. She is known as the EQ Coach. Visit her at www.susandunn.cc.

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