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Pets and Allergies

Some people are paranoid about their kids being around pets. On today's Moment of Science, we discuss some research that indicates being around pets early in life is not such a bad idea.

Many people believe that you shouldn't let your kids be around pets because of allergies. Surprisingly, a study done by epidemiologist Christine Cole Johnson at the Henry Ford Hospital came to the opposite conclusion.

She wanted to know whether the common-sense notion that small children should be kept away from dogs and cats was true; so her team collected information on a group of kids from the time they were in the womb to the time they were six years old.

They looked at parents' allergies, the conditions of their homes, and the kids' health. Finally, when the kids were six, the scientists tested them to see which ones had the worst allergic responses to common things--dogs, cats, dust mites, grass and mold. Guess what? The kids who had grown up without pets were four times more likely to have allergy problems than the ones who didn't.

The team speculates that the presence of dogs and cats early in life trains the immune system to respond to allergens effectively later.

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