Reduce your kids’ risk of asthma and eczema: Get a dog

Wednesday, April 04, 2018 by

Based on the results of two separate studies, aside from being loyal companions, having dogs can also benefit the health of young children with asthma and eczema.

Lead author Dr. Gagandeep Cheema, an allergist and member of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), explained that while eczema is a condition often found in infants, not many people are aware of the “progression from eczema to food allergies to nasal allergies and asthma.” She added that the team of researchers wanted to study if having a dog offered a protective effect that could slow down that progress. (Related: Are Dogs Good for Kids?)

In the first study, researchers observed mother-child pairs exposed to a dog. “Exposure” referred to keeping one or several dogs indoors for at least one hour every day.

Study co-author Dr. Edward M. Zoratti, another ACAAI member and allergist, said that a pregnant mother’s exposure to dogs before giving birth is linked to a child’s lowered risk of eczema by two years old. However, the protective effect isn’t as effective by age 10.

For the second study, the researchers looked into the effects of two different types of dog exposure on children with asthma. The participants hailed from Baltimore.

The first type of dog exposure was the protein (or allergen) which affects children who are allergic to dogs. The second type were elements (e.g. bacteria) that a dog might carry.

Dr. Po-Yang Tsou, the lead author, commented that exposure to the allergen could produce two different effects. First is a protective effect on asthma of non-allergen dog-associated exposures, second is a harmful effect of allergen exposure.

The researchers suggest that a child’s contact with factors other than dog allergen, like bacteria or other unknown factors, can offer a protective effect. Dr. Tsou cautioned that dog allergen is still a major concern for children who have dog allergies.

The ACAAI offers some tips for people with a dog allergy who keep pet dogs at home:

  1. Don’t let your dog stay in your bedroom and make sure it can only enter a handful of rooms. Do keep in mind that keeping the dog in one room won’t always limit the allergens to that room.
  2. If you hug or pet your dog, wash your hands thoroughly.
  3. Keeping high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) cleaners that run continuously in room can help reduce allergen levels with continued use. Using a high-efficiency vacuum cleaner or a central vacuum regularly may also minimize allergen levels.
  4. Give your dog a bath at least once a week to help reduce airborne dog allergen.

The other benefits of pet dogs

Below are the other benefits that kids can enjoy when they grow up with pet dogs:

  • Constant companionship — Aside from being adorable, dogs are affectionate and smart, making them the perfect companions. Pets are playful and they can also provide children with comfort and unconditional love.
  • Cuddling with dogs can help reduces anxiety, loneliness, and stress — According to research, just cuddling or petting your dog can improve your mood. Spending time with dogs also increase our oxytocin levels. Oxytocin is a hormone that helps us bond socially and reduces anxiety.
  • Dogs can teach children to be responsible — Dogs can be fun playmates, but they also need a lot of looking after. Teaching your children to take care of their pets will teach them how to be responsible.
  • Having pets can encourage a more active lifestyle — Children with pets will have a reason to go outside and exercise. Playing outdoors with their dogs means that they’ll spend less time glued to TV or computer screens.

You can read more articles about pets and how they can benefit our health and emotional well-being at

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