Growing Up With A Dog, Farm Animals May Lower Your Child's Asthma Risk

First Posted: Nov 03, 2015 07:58 AM EST

Growing up with a dog in the family and contact with farm animals can reduce asthma risk, according to a recent study.

Researchers found that a child's asthma risk was reduced by 15 percent when owning a dog and growing up with farm animals nearly halved the risk.

During the study, researchers from Sweden set out to determine the effects of having pet dogs or farm animals on young children. They looked at two large sample groups that included 376,000 preschool-age children and at least 276,200 school-age children.

"We wanted to see if this relationship was true also for children growing up with dogs in their homes. Our results confirmed the farming effect and we also saw that children who grew up with dogs had about 15% less asthma than children without dogs," said lead scientist Dr. Tove Fall, from Uppsala University in Sweden, via The Guardian. "Because we had access to such a large and detailed data set, we could account for confounding factors such as asthma in parents, area of residence and socio-economic status."

They found that school-age children who were exposed to dogs showed a 13 percent lower risk of asthma. To determine whether or not the families had dogs, the researchers looked to see if either parent was a registered dog owner. However, the researchers noted that if a child is already allergic to dogs, introducing one to the family would not be helpful.

Furthermore, they discovered that farm animals further reduced the asthma risk. For instance, being exposed to the animals lowered asthma risk in school-aged children as well as preschool-age children by about 52 percent and 31 percent, respectively.

Though researchers were unable to determine exactly why this was the case, they believe that the hygiene hypothesis-or lack of early exposure to microbes and parasites may prevent the immune system from developing properly. As a result, lack of exposure to certain organisms and germs at an early age can increase one's risk of allergies.

The study is published in the journal Pediatrics.

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