8/29/02 - Pets May Help Fight Allergies - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

8/29/02 - Pets May Help Fight Allergies

You've heard the saying dogs are a man's best friend, but could they also be baby's best friend?

A new study finds cats and dogs could protect your child from developing allergies later in life. But not all Heartland doctors agree. Allergy specialist Dr. Robert Sacha says it only applies to households that already had a pet before the new baby arrived, and news that a cat or dog may prevent allergies doesn't mean all parents should run out and get one.

Connie Robinson's 17-month-old son, Layne, has a long list of allergies. "I would like for him to have a pet, he loves them, but that's not for us," Connie says. Having a pet may never be a possibility for Layne. "He's allergic to common household dusts, mold, dust mites, some trees and grasses, he's allergic to pet dander," Connie says.

And that may be partly to do with the fact Layne never had a pet. He gets a runny nose and watery eyes from just being around them, but Connie has allergies too. She thinks even if they had a pet before Layne was born, it would be the same story. Dr. Sacha agrees. He says, "I think you need to be cautious in telling people to go out and get pets because most people have severe allergies and that can worsen your symptoms."

But according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, animals introduce bacteria, they say that bacteria is good for a child's immune system. "It's that theory if they're exposed to pollen, dirt, and pet dander when they're younger they may not develop allergies," Dr. Sacha says. And whether you keep your pet indoors, or outside does matter. "There's a big difference in your animal being indoor or outdoors," Dr. Sacha says. "I think they're going to have a lot more problems indoors."

Children who have allergies are more likely to develop asthma as adults. If your child has allergies, talk to your doctor about what's best.

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