Sorry cat lovers, but it is a dog in the home that might just help prevent eczema in your child.  Yup, poochie prophylactics we call ‘em, and a recent study shows that it might just do the trick, immunologically, to keep your kid from developing the itchy skin inflammation.

The study, done in Cincinnati, found that children with a dog in the home at age 1 had a significantly reduced risk of eczema at age 4, but children who had a cat were more likely to have the ailment at the same age.  And get this, a dog in the child’s home also seemed to protect against allergies to cats.  Woof, woof, woof…

Over 600 newborns were looked at, some testing positive for dog allergies (meaning they were allergic even though they had no symptom), some not.  Of those testing positive, the children that did not live with a dog had four times the risk of getting eczema by age 4 than those who tested positive and did own a dog.  The higher the dog allergen levels were in the homes, the lower the risk was for the child developing eczema.

“It’s speculative, but possible that the protective effect is due to a sort of natural immunotherapy where children who are exposed to dogs become tolerant over time in the same way that people on allergy shots develop tolerance to allergens,” said study author Dr. Tolly Epstein, an assistant professor in the division of immunology, allergy and rheumatology at the University of Cincinnati Medical School.

Not all experts see the results as definitive, though.  Dr. Wanda Phipatanakul, an associate physician at Children’s Hospital in Boston, contends that other research has shown conflicting results on the impact of cats and dogs on the development of eczema.

“The jury is still out,” said Phipatanakul, who is also an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. “I don’t think anyone, including the authors, is saying to go get a few dogs, or don’t get a cat to reduce your risk.”

True, but you’ve got to admit, the results are interesting.  Preliminary as they may be, with more studies surely on their way, these findings are encouraging.  If they turn out to be correct, then the results might just show a greater symbiosis between man and his best friend.

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