WASHINGTON (7News) — Good news for animal lovers -- a furry friend might help reduce food allergies in children.
Around 4 million children in the United States have food allergies and that number is growing, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation.
A new study out of Japan showed that if pregnant mothers have an indoor cat or dog and the infant is exposed to the animals, the children have a lower rate of food allergies. The research is based on 66,215 children up to the age of three.
The scientists used data from the Japan Environment and Children’s Study, which is a survey that measures environmental exposures during pregnancy through childhood.
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If a dog is in the house during fetal development and early infancy, researchers say this can reduce the risk of egg, milk and nut allergies. When it comes to cats, that exposure can reduce the risk of egg, wheat and soybean allergies.
The study did not examine how cats and dogs impact food allergies, but Kaiser Permanente allergist Dr. Troy Baker identified possibilities.
“Pets will actually change the microbiome in children. So, there’s going to be an increase in favorable bacteria in the child’s gut that actually favors not getting food allergy. It also increases endotoxin levels, which is basically parts of the cell wall in the bacteria in the home and that actually helps decrease allergic disease,” he told 7News Health and Wellness reporter Victoria Sanchez.
Not all pets are alike. The study looked at if turtles, hamsters and birds make a difference in the rate of food allergies and they do not.