Some people abandon their dogs before their kids are born so as to avoid pet allergies. While a research has been done to prove the opposite.
According to a team of Swedish scientists, children who grow up around dogs will have a 15 percent less chance of developing asthma later in life. This is compared to children who did not have the company of these furry friends.
The team used the national register to study the association between children’s contact with dogs and the children’s future respiratory development. They studied the data of over a million children in Sweden using nine different national registers. The new data included two previously unused dog ownership registers.
This study is perfectly tailored to Sweden because every citizen of the country is assigned a unique number associated with their name and identity. Whether they go to the doctor or order a prescription, this number is recorded, and then disassociated with the data for privacy protection.
The Swedish government even monitors dog ownership. Every family that owns a dog has registered their pet with the government since 2001.
With all of this information, scientists were able to better collate the number of dog owners who then went on to suffer from asthma.
While this study demonstrates figures, such raw data does not give people all of the information they need regarding the prevention of respiratory diseases. It demonstrates the association between asthma and pet ownership. However, it does not show why people with dogs may suffer less from asthma.
This study demonstrates correlation but it doesn’t provide a causal link between the two numbers. Previous studies have been done on this topic but none have garnered substantial results that led to conclusions. However, some studies have shown that living in a rural area or on a farm can reduce the likelihood of asthma by 50 percent.
The Hygiene Hypothesis
What this study does do is throw weight behind what is called the hygiene hypothesis.
The hygiene hypothesis argues that children who are raised in sterile environments are more likely to have underdeveloped immune systems. As a result, they are more likely to suffer from allergies and auto-immune diseases later in life.
Hygienic areas and industrialized countries have led to fewer infectious diseases in the world. Simple hand washing techniques combined with other anti-bacterial or anti-viral products have generally prevented whole continents from being plagued by infectious, preventable diseases. This is great. But there are downsides to ultra-sterile environments.
Essentially, when your environment is too clean all the time, it is harder to fight off disease. In some cases, the immune system might even begin mistaking your body for disease. This is the underlying cause of most auto-immune disorders.
Studies have suggested that the more children are exposed to germs, the healthier they are likely to be later in life. This does not mean that a family simply needs to throw out the antibacterial products. It means engaging in everyday life and picking up germs, like the germs that you pick up from dogs.
The Hygiene Hypothesis and Asthma
But preventing asthma is not as simple as picking up a new pooch. Asthma is not just caused by extensive cleanliness. There are certain factors that attack the body that can cause asthma, too.
Asthma can be caused by allergens or irritants in the air. It can also be caused by respiratory infections. Some people get specific genes from their parents that lead to the development of asthma.
Ultimately, asthma is not a black and white disease. Many people suffer from it differently. Because of this, and the lack of further information in the study, scientists cannot prove much with the current data. It is true that some people who had dogs as a child did not grow up to develop asthma. But until researchers find out why, it is best to depend on Fido for love, compassion and protection rather than for the prevention of respiratory diseases.
Featured photo credit: How can I recycle this via flickr.com