How Pets Can Protect Against Allergies In Kids?
Are you a mother of two infants? Or may be kids less than five years of age? I bet this article would be of particular interest to you because it concerns the health issues of your kid. It is a common misconception these days that pets at home are responsible for most of the childhood allergies as their dander can be very dangerous to the delicate immune system of the kids. Science has proved that the reality is otherwise. It is, in fact, absolutely safe to have pets even if your child has just been born. Not only is it safe but Pets can protect against allergies and improve the health status of your child in the long run. How? This is definitely an intriguing question whose answer we’ll find out in a couple of minutes.
University of California was the home to a research that was conducted out in the past decade. The research focused on the impact of pets on the immune composition of children. Astonishingly, it was found out that kids living with pets, especially dogs and cats, experience much less incidences of allergic reactions and asthma. The underlying mechanism is unclear and not being fully understood but advances in medicine have led to a vague understanding as to how the human body works.
It is a general observation worldwide that mothers protect their babies from all outdoor and indoor hazards from germs and bacteria to dangerous toys to household accessories that could harm the baby. When a family has pets (I’m especially referring to dogs and cats), such a protective mechanism may not remain intact for a longer period of time. The simple reason is that pets bring many organisms from outside into the house. Exposure to such organisms is rare if the baby is confined to the house all day. These germs and bacteria, once inside the house, can be ingested by the babies and colonize the intestinal tracts. It is because of these bacteria that the immune system of kids is strengthened and they are able to fight allergens later in life.
The experiments have indicated that pets lead to the induction of a specific bacterium ‘Lactobacillus johnsonii’ in the gastrointestinal tracts of children. Now either this bacterium modifies the immune system or it just leads to the growth of other protective bacteria in the gut is not clearly known. Whatever the mechanism, the end result is when these children are exposed to other toxins and allergens later in life, there is not an aggravated production of T-cells in the airway. T-cells constitute the cell-mediated immunity and this pathway contributes to the hypersensitivity reactions in the body which manifests as asthma and allergies. Diminishing this pathway is the key step in reducing inflammation and allergies and this is what the pets’ dander does. Thus it won’t be wrong to associate allergies with the bacteria present in the gut. In fact not only allergies, but continuous exposure to pets also protect against the reactions of ragweed, grass and dust mites.
Allergists are very keen now to study in detail the different types if bacteria that can produce similar effects. This could become the basis of future anti-allergic therapy.
HOW DOES THE TIME OF EXPOSURE MATTERS?
One important point that demands discussion is that the time of exposure is really important because these bacteria produce beneficial effects only when introduced during the first two years of life. Studies have shown that children growing with pets from a very early age are more likely to be safe from allergies than those who get exposed to pets during their teenage. The possible reason for this deviation might be the fact that the immune system of babies is naïve and exposure at an early age might aid modulation and development of natural immunity. These individuals develop relevant antibodies in their blood to prevent infection if a second exposure to the bacteria occurs. Contrary to this, teenage children have developed immune systems and exposure to unknown bacteria at this age might act as allergens, aggravating histamine release from the mast cells and producing allergy.
Hypothetically speaking, it has been suggested that girls are more susceptible to allergies than boys even when both of them grow up with pets. There may be two possible reasons for this. The biochemical composition of immune system may differ in boys and girls slightly. Secondly, exposure to the pets is in really different ways in both the genders. Such differences may account for the difference in immunity.
In a nut shell, next time when you’re expecting a child or have a little kid at home, you don’t have to send away your beloved pet just because of the fear of allergies. No wonder, your pet can prove to be your child’s best friend.