Pets and kids: having pets before birth lessens risk of pet allergies

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Thinking of pets and kids in the same home? A study says having pets before the birth of your first child lessens their risk of getting pet allergies.

Raising kids is one thing, taking care of pets another. But both? Having pets and kids at the same time is hard work.

Some parents might think it’s a disaster waiting to happen, while some might think it’s the best way to raise well-adjusted kids. We say, that depends on your needs and your children’s needs.

The timing of pets and kids

Though some may think they’re almost the same – having pets before their child  or the other way around – the order in which they came into your life is also crucial. A recent study suggests that children who live with cats and dogs are less likely to develop allergies to the same animals if the child lived with the same pet as an infant.

Babies who grew up with cats are half as likely to be allergic to them as teenagers compared to babies who didn't grow up with cats.

As for dogs, babies who grew up around them are half as likely to be allergic to them – but only for boys. The frequency of allergic reactions as teenagers is different with girls, a finding that has baffled researchers.

Timing is indeed crucial here as exposing babies to pets a year after birth does not appear to change the odds of allergy risk. The research team suspects that this early and prolonged exposure to pet allergens (and pet-related bacteria) helps children build up their natural immunity to them.

Lead researcher Ganesa Wegienka, Ph.D., says “Your immune system, if it’s busy with exposures early on, stays away from the allergic immune profile.”

Though this is not the first study that proves having pets from the time the child was born protects them from allergies, it’s the first study to follow the young subjects until they’re 18 years of age.

Results vary on pets and kids studies

However, it should be noted that some previous studies have results that contradict this study's findings. Some even link pet exposure during infancy to increased allergy risk.

“In the end, we’ll probably find out that there are periods of opportunity when exposure to allergens, for some people, is going to have a protective effect,” says Dr. David Nash, M.D., clinical director of allergy and immunology at a children’s hospital who was not involved with the new study.

“But we’re a long way from figuring out who it’s protective for and when that optimal period is.”

No need to get rid of pets

But don’t give away your family pet either if you’re concerned about provoking allergies in your child. “I would not get rid of my dog if I was having a child,” says Wegienka. “There’s no evidence that you should get rid of a dog or a cat.”

It’s also possible that there are other factors at work that influenced the study participants’ allergy risk. The study did not take into account the medical history of each participant’s family background, so it’s also possible that the children were already genetically predisposed to not having allergies from exposure to pets.

Living in a home with pets and kids

You too can have a home with pets and kids living in perfect harmony. If you'd like to have a pet, before or after the birth of your first child, you can adopt a pet at any of the following pet shelters.

1. Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS)

Location: Aurora Blvd., Katipunan Valley, Loyola Heights, Quezon City

Office hours: Mondays to Saturdays, 10:00 AM to 5:00 PM

Contact number: 475-1688

Email: [email protected]

Adoption fee: P500 for cats and P1,000 for dogs (Dogs/cats are already spayed/neutered, vaccines, deworming, and flea and tick preventives are up-to-date as well.)

2. CARA Welfare Philippines

Location: 175 Lopez Rizal St. cor. Samat St., Mandaluyong City

Office hours: Mondays to Fridays, 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM and Saturdays, 8:00 AM to 12:00 PM

Contact number: 532-3340

Email: [email protected]

Adoption fee: P800 for cats and P1,200 for dogs (Dogs/cats are already spayed/neutered, vaccines, deworming, and flea and tick preventives are up-to-date as well.)

3. Philippine Animal Rescue Team

Location: Skyline Road, San Jose del Monte City, Bulacan

Office hours: Thursdays to Sundays, 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM

Email: [email protected]

Adoption fee: P250 to 1,500 (Dogs/cats are already spayed/neutered, vaccines, deworming, and flea and tick preventives are up-to-date as well. There’s also a 25% discount on all medical services from their partner vet, Pendragon Veterinary Clinic.)

4. Mandaluyong Animal Shelter (MAS)

Location: C3-Welfare Compound, Martinez St., Barangay Addition Hills, Mandaluyong City

Email: [email protected]

Adoption fee: Click this link for more details.

 

5. Animal Kingdom Foundation Inc.

Location: 8 Purante St. Cubcub, Capas, Tarlac

Contact numbers: 0921-6345023, 0939-9142402, and 0939-9142405

Email: [email protected]

Adoption fee: Click this link for more details.

 

6. Purr Haven Cats

Location: Adoption is mostly done online

Contact numbers: 0929-8840645 and 899-4073

Email: [email protected]

Adoption fee: Click this link for more details.

 

7. Happy Animals Club 

Location: Matina, Davao City, Davao del Sur

Email: [email protected]

Adoption fee: Click this link for more details.

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Written by

Paul