According to some experts, you should expose your children to pets early. If your family is prone to food allergies, early exposure to certain foods can cause food allergies that might not otherwise exist. However, this is not true with Fido, the family pet! Scientists are finding that early exposure to pets and dirt can actually help to train your immune system that these are not threats to the body – therefore stopping an allergy before it starts.
The Journal of the American Medical Association has reported that children who live around two or more dogs or cats before they turn one are less likely to develop allergies in their lifetime. These children may develop defenses against allergies as well as asthma. The study involved 833 children, with 473 tested for allergies after six to seven years.
Scientists have hypothesized that Americans are raised in a clean environment – almost too clean – reducing allergen exposures that would normally help the body to develop better and stronger immune systems. This theory has been named the “Hygiene Hypothesis.”
You may have heard the old time saying, “You need to eat a peck of dirt before you die.” Our great grandmothers may have been right. Early exposure to dirt, dander and pets may be good for us indeed!