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Caring for your Pet at Home

Why vets believe exposure to pets can help children's allergies

There's nothing worse than having an allergy to cats or dogs. Not only does this keep you from enjoying all the wonders of loving and owning a pet, but it also interferes with your day-to-day life. Even a passing encounter with a pet owner could be enough to trigger an allergic reaction.

Nobody knows for certain why people develop these allergies, but many vets believe that early exposure to pets could prevent allergies from developing. If you're on the fence about getting a pet, or want to wait until your child is older to get one, you might want to consider changing your mind, for your kids' benefit.

A pet allergy usually develops when a person's body mistakenly perceives a pet's saliva and fur as a harmful substance. The body reacts by attacking these substances, causing side effects such as swelling, itching and sneezing. Some people have a mild reaction, while others experience harsher symptoms, such as difficulty breathing and even vomiting.

Research is beginning to suggest that early exposure to animals can lead to children developing a resistance to these allergens. Many scientists believe that early exposure can also strengthen a child's immune system, allowing their body to have less dramatic reactions than someone who is first exposed in adulthood.

Early exposure also benefits gut health, as research shows children who grew up on farms with livestock had a stronger and more diverse range of microbes in their systems compared to those who didn't live on farms. It can make them more resistant to illness and be able to fight off infections and sicknesses better.

While more research needs to be done to understand how and why people develop allergies to pets, if you're wondering whether or not your child is too young to be exposed to a pet, you should know that they probably aren't. In fact, having them share an environment with a pet could actually benefit them in the long run.

If you have any concerns, you can always address them by speaking to your family GP or your local vet.