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Prenatal exposure to pets may lower early allergy risks

I consider myself lucky when it comes to not having any food allergies, but I am allergic to cats and some dogs and, as I’ve written before, I’m miserable in the spring. Well, according to a new study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, I might want to blame my mom for not having a pet around when she was pregnant with me.

Researchers from Henry Ford Hospital in Michigan found that babies who had indoor prenatal exposure to pets had lower levels of immunoglobulin E, an antibody linked to allergies and asthma, by age 2. Their study also shows that race and whether or not the mother delivered vaginally or via c-section were factors in IgE levels.

Christine Cole Johnson, PhD, MPH, chair of Henry Ford’s Department of Public Health Services, led the study, and says that the findings support the ‘hygiene hypothesis’ which suggests exposure to allergens in the environment early in life reduces the risk of developing allergies by boosting immune system activity. "We believe having a broad, diverse exposure to a wide array of microbacteria at home and during the birthing process influences the development of a child's immune system,” she explained in a release. "Our findings may provide insight into the biological mechanisms that increase the risk for allergic disorders."

So in other words, a little dirt (or in this case, Fido) never hurt.

Previously: Eat a germ, fight an allergy
Photo by Jacobim Mugatu

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