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Early Pet Exposure May Cut Allergy Risk

     Previous studies have suggested that children born during tree pollen season may develop a tolerance for pollen, thus reducing their risk for acquiring pollen allergy later in life. Scientists believe the same type of 'de-sensitizing' mechanism may be at work in infants exposed to pets in the home.

     Children who are exposed to household pets during infancy may run a lower risk of developing allergies to these animals later in life.

      Researchers at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Goteborg, Sweden, studied data on 2,500 Swedish children and found that children exposed to pets during the first year of life had a lower rate of allergy rhinitis at ages 7 to 9 and lower rates of asthma at ages 12 to 13.

      Researchers found that 3.3 percent of children exposed to pets during infancy had asthma at age 12 to 13 compared with 8.5 percent of children who had no exposure to household pets.

      The study also found that children with early exposure to cats showed nearly half the rate of cat allergy when they were adolescents compared with kids not exposed to cats when they were babies.

      Pet allergies are triggered by dander, or tiny skin flakes, from cats and dogs. Other studies have suggested children born during the peak of the pollen season have a lower risk of being allergic to pollen when they got older.

      This study appears in the May '00 issue of Clinical and Experimental Allergy.

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