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Study examines whether pet exposure reduces childhood food allergies

There is growing evidence that exposure to dogs and cats could reduce the incidence of common food allergies for young children.
A dog and a cat.
Posted at 12:55 PM, Mar 30, 2023

A study out of Japan published Wednesday in the journal PLOS examines whether pet exposure is effective in preventing allergic disease among young children. 

The result was that exposure to dogs and cats may reduce the risk of food allergies at age 3. 

According to the study, dog exposure might reduce the risk of egg, milk and nut allergies among children. Cat exposure might reduce the risk of egg, wheat, and soybean allergies, the study noted. 

The study also examined exposure to pet hamsters, which might increase the risk of nut allergy. 

Researchers studied the difference between no exposure to pets, only being exposed to pets while in fetal development, only being exposed as an infant, and exposure during both time frames. 

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Although there was a minimal benefit for being exposed to pets during fetal development, the study found that being exposed to pets during both fetal development and infancy reduced food allergies by 13%.

The authors noted the study was a questionnaire-based survey, and they did not perform an objective assessment. 

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, eggs, milk and peanuts are the most common types of childhood food allergies. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 8% of children in the U.S. have a food allergy. According to the CDC, there is no cure for food allergies.