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30-09-2010 | Article

Dog ownership linked to eczema risk in children


Free abstract

MedWire News: Owning a dog could help reduce the risk for eczema in children with dog allergies, study findings indicate.

Dr Tolly Epstein and colleagues, from the University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in Ohio, USA, found that children who tested positive for dog allergies were four times less likely to develop eczema by the age of 4 years if they owned a dog before the age of 1 year than if they did not.

Owning a cat, however, did not reduce the risk for eczema in children with cat allergies.

The global burden of eczema has increased substantially over the last 3 decades and, world-wide, affects 15-30% of children and 2-10% of adults, state the researchers.

This "rapid rise in disease prevalence implies that environmental influences must play a critical role," they say.

The team gathered data from 636 children enrolled in the Cincinnati Childhood Allergy & Air Pollution Study, which examined the effects of environmental particulates on childhood respiratory health and allergy development.

Children enrolled in the study were considered to be at high risk for developing allergies due to being born to parents with allergies.

The children were tested for 17 separate allergies, including to dogs and cats, on a yearly basis from ages 1 through 4 years.

At 4 years of age, 14% of the children had eczema. Among the children who had dog allergies, eczema developed in 57% of those who did not own dogs before the age of 1 year, compared with just 14% of those who did own dogs.

"Children with dog allergies who did not own dogs were four times more likely to develop eczema," Dr Epstein and team report in The Journal of Pediatrics.

In contrast, children who were allergic to cats and owned cats before the age of 1 year were 13 times more likely to develop eczema by age 4 years than those who did not own cats.

Owning a cat did not increase the risk for eczema in children not allergic to cats, however.

Dr Epstein suggests that parents of children at increased risk for eczema may want to consider these findings when choosing a pet.

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Current Medicine Group, a trading division of Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2010

By Lucy Piper