Research in Sydney has shown that children who grow up with cats are less likely to develop allergies than those who live in a cat free house. The studies conducted on 500 children born to families with no cats as pets, found that if they acquired a cat in their first five years of life they were unlikely to test positive in allergy skin-prick tests.
Pediatrician Catarina Almqvist who conducted the research said that said while children who had pets were less likely to have atopy, (a positive reaction to skin-prick tests) they were no less likely to have developed allergies such as hay fever, asthma or eczema. Tests showed last year 29.3 % of the children whose families had acquired cats in the past five years, had atopy. Where as about 47.2 % children who lived in a feline-free household had atopy. She said that children who are exposed to pets or children who grow up on a farm have a reduced risk of atopy.
The Childhood Asthma Prevention Study also showed the reduced risk of atopic diseases, such as allergic asthma, rhino-conjunctivitis and dermatitis, did not depend on the age the child acquired a cat or if the cat was kept indoors or outdoors. The research findings, was presented this week at the annual scientific meeting of the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand in Canberra, and appeared to contradict studies which showed that acquiring cats after birth increased the risk of allergies in children
The studies also showed similar results with people who had dogs as pets, but they concentrated on cats, because some families already had a pet dog by the time the child was born. None of the people involved had a pet cat when the child was born. The theory they felt is some sort of modulation of the immune system.
Dr Almqvist said parents who had been thinking about getting rid of pets because they feared their children might become allergic could now rethink their decisions. She went on to state that if parents have asthma and allergy and their children have asthma and allergy and react to cats, they should not have a cat. But if they don't have any symptoms, they may very well keep the cat