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Psst! Having A Pet May Reduce Your Risk of Allergies & Asthma

Psst! Having A Pet May Reduce Your Risk of Allergies & Asthma

Growing up, we never had pets. Well OK, there was a brief bout with a gerbil, but that doesn’t really count. According to new research, our lack of furry friends could explain why my sister suffers from regular allergies, especially to cats.

According to a new study from the University of Michigan, scientists have long believed that people who grow up with a pet, like a dog or cat, or live on a farm with plenty of livestock are less likely to develop asthma or allergies. They called it the “hygiene hypothesis”: the idea that lack of exposure to certain types of bacteria, viruses and parasites inhibits the immune system. The hypothesis makes sense, but was hard to prove. Now, researchers are one step closer to understanding why having a pet seems to reduce the risk of allergies and asthma later in life.

“A team of researchers from the University of Michigan exposed a group of mice to dust from a dog owner’s home, then doused them and a population of mice who weren’t given dog dust to two asthma-related allergens (including cockroach compounds),” reports TIME Magazine. “The mice that had been exposed to the dog dust showed much lower inflammation in their airways, and produced less mucus than the mice that received no dust or dust from a nondog household.”

The results seem to be the work of tiny microbes living in the dog’s dust (and presumably other animals as well). When exposed to these microbes, the organisms living in the rats’ gut were transformed, allowing them to develop better defense mechanisms against the allergens, and reducing inflammatory response.

“Specifically, the researchers found that a single bacteria called Lactobacillus johnsonii was very prominent in the guts of the mice who lived with dog-related dust. When the researchers gave a live form of the bacteria to the mice that had not been exposed to dog dust, they found that the animals developed similar protection against allergens that the dust-exposed mice had,” explains TIME.

Scientists say that given time, they may be able to use this information to develop probiotics or microbe therapies that could treat or protect children from allergies and asthma. Although I still think it’d just be more fun if everyone got a pet!

Also see: Living with Allergies and Pets

Read more: Allergies, Asthma, Children, Dogs, Family, Health, Pets, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Image via Thinkstock

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Beth Buczynski

Beth is a freelance writer and editor living in the Rocky Mountain West. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog or check out her blog.

285 comments

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10:58AM PDT on Oct 4, 2014

thanks for sharing :)

3:56PM PST on Feb 16, 2014

..and one more reason to love my cats :)

6:42PM PST on Jan 7, 2014

Interesting, thank you.

6:41PM PST on Jan 7, 2014

Interesting, thank you.

3:44AM PST on Jan 7, 2014

TY

2:22AM PST on Jan 6, 2014

Voted: 'yes!'

1:41PM PST on Jan 5, 2014

Thanks for the article

9:19AM PST on Jan 5, 2014

Thanks.

4:17AM PST on Jan 5, 2014

I always grew up with pets, I have asthma but think it would have been much worse if it wasn't for the pets! Dogs from a rescue centre make such wonderful pets, I'm sure they know they're now going home for good and are so excited! They are so lovable and truly appreciate a good home.

3:53PM PST on Jan 4, 2014

Interesting article, thank you.

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