Pet Perks for Asthma-Free Children

You'll do whatever it takes in order to protect your infant's respiratory health, but choosing to get rid of the beloved family pet can be a very difficult decision. Dogs and cats are a common trigger for childhood allergies and asthma, so many new parents prefer to avoid this risk.

But thankfully, you don't need to send your dog or cat packing. Researchers today believe that your littlest family members may benefit from having your furry friend around. In fact, she may actually serve an important role to prevent childhood asthma.

Pets and Asthma

In recent years there's been growing awareness that young children raised in close proximity with dogs and cats may be less likely to get asthma than their pet-less counterparts. Where the benefit comes from wasn't completely clear, however.

Now, scientists from the University of California believe they've found the answer. They've identified the fact that the house dust from homes with dogs has a markedly different structure than the dust from homes without animals.

How Household Dust and Pets Prevent Asthma

The researchers also discovered that this dust seems to protect against a common childhood ailment called respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). This is significant, since contracting a severe case of RSV in infancy can increase the likelihood of the child to later develop childhood asthma. By preventing RSV, the risk of developing asthma is decreased.

Research on Household Dust and Asthma

To come to this conclusion, the scientists looked at three groups of mice. The first group was fed house dust that came from homes that contained dogs, and were then exposed to the RSV germs. The second group was exposed to RSV without any house dust, while the third group served as the control.

The group of mice that was fed the dust didn't seem to experience the common RSV symptoms, such as increased mucus production and airway inflammation that the second group did. The first group also had a different bacterial makeup in their gastrointestinal tract that the researchers believe may have conferred the immune system with the ability to resist the RSV germs. The scientists credit this resistance to the fact that the house dust from homes with dogs has unique microbes that offer this protection. These findings were presented at the General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology held in June 2012.

Researchers now plan to further examine the role of microbes in preventing and treating asthma. They hope that in the future, this information will help them understand how to prevent childhood asthma on a broader scale.

What This Means for You

And if you don't own a dog, consider adopting one. Check with your pediatrician for recommendations on a child-friendly breed that would make a good addition to your family and as an added bonus, might provide some essential respiratory protection.

Just in keep in mind that some children are allergic to animals, and therefore shouldn't have a pet. Therefore, always pay attention to your child's symptoms and be sure to make decisions based on what's best for her specific circumstances.



Sources: "Dog-Associated House Dust Protects Against Respiratory Infection Linked to Asthma." 19 June 2012. Web. 3 July 2012.

Medical News Today. "Protection Against Respiratory Infection Linked To Asthma From Dog-Associated House Dust." 20 June 2012. Web. 3 July 2012.