How dogs may protect kids against allergies and asthma

The Wall Street Journal reports that research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that having dogs as pets may help protect children against asthma and allergies. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases funded the research.

On its website, Time reports that investigators “exposed a group of mice to dust from a dog owner’s home, then doused them and a population of mice who weren’t given dog dust to two asthma-related allergens (including cockroach compounds).”

The researchers found that the rodents “that had been exposed to the dog dust showed much lower inflammation in their airways, and produced less mucous than the mice that received no dust, or dust from a non-dog household.”

The study indicated, however, that it was not “the dust that was protective, but what lived in the dust – microbes that actually reshape the community of living organisms in the rodents’ gut.”

HealthDay reports that although “these findings were made in mice, they’re also likely to explain why children who are exposed to dogs from the time they’re born are less likely to have allergies and asthma, the…researchers said.” Additionally, the findings “suggest that changes in the gut bacteria community … can affect immune function elsewhere in the body, said study co-leader Susan Lynch.”

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