Calling all prospective parents. Want to reduce the risk that your child will be one of the 1:5 who develop allergies? Seems you should get a dog or cat first and then opt for a natural delivery.
According to a groundbreaking study just published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, researchers from Henry Ford Hospital found that babies who are exposed to pets during pregnancy, and those who were delivered vaginally rather than by cesarean section, have lower levels of the antibody – IgE.
The production of IgE in response to innocuous substances is the hallmark of allergic disease. As more IgE is produced, total IgE levels increase. High total IgE levels are associated with an increased risk for asthma and allergies in children.
The study showed that the levels of IgE were 28% lower in babies exposed to indoor pets in the womb than those from pet free homes and 43% percent lower in infants who had both prenatal pet exposure and were delivered naturally.
The findings support the so-called “hygiene hypothesis”, which theorizes that early childhood exposure to infectious agents affects the immune system’s development and onset of allergies and asthma.
“We believe having a broad, diverse exposure to a wide array of microbacteria at home and during the birthing process influences the development of a child’s immune system”, says Christine Cole Johnson, Ph.D., MPH, chair of Henry Ford’s Department of Public Health Sciences and senior author of the study.
She theorizes that indoor pet exposure has a protective effect against early allergy development and that babies born through the birth canal are exposed to a higher and more diverse burden of bacteria, further boosting the immune system’s protection against allergies.
SRxA’s Word on Health thinks it’s kind of ironic that pets are good for you before you’re born, yet are the second leading cause of allergies afterwards! Let us know what you think.