Can living with pets prevent children developing food allergies?

Posted: 4 April 2023 | | No comments yet

According to a new study, living with pet cats or dogs is associated with fewer food allergies in young children.


Results of a study have found that children exposed to pet cats or indoor dogs during fetal development or early infancy tended to have fewer food allergies compared to other children.

Carried out by Hisao Okabe from the Fukushima Regional Center for the Japan Environment and Children’s Study, Japan, the study analysed over 65,000 infants in Japan.

Along with colleagues, Okabe looked at data from the Japan Environment and Children’s Study (a nationwide, prospective birth cohort study) to study children’s exposure to various pets and food allergies.

A reported 22 percent were exposed to pets during the fetal period (most commonly indoor dogs and cats), with the researchers claiming “there was a significantly reduced incidence of food allergies, though there was no significant difference for children in households with outdoor dogs”.

Could we be to blame for an increase in food allergies?

Results found that children who were exposed to indoor dogs were significantly less likely to experience egg, milk, and nut allergies, whereas children exposed to cats were significantly less likely to have egg, wheat, and soybean allergies.

Meanwhile, children exposed to hamsters (0.9 percent of the total group studied) had a significantly greater incidence of nut allergies.

The data used in the experiment were self-reported meaning the results of the study rely on the accurate contributions of participants. The researchers have also highlighted that the study cannot determine if the link between pet exposure and food allergy incidence is causative. However the authors have suggested  that these results can help guide future research into the mechanisms behind childhood food allergies.

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