Saturday, April 01, 2006

Cats are good for you: "Children brought up with cats may be less prone to develop allergies than those in feline-free households, according to a new study. Research has found that unless children already showed symptoms and a family history of allergies such as asthma, eczema or hayfever, they were likely to develop a stronger immune system if they had a feline friend. Sydney pediatrician Catarina Almqvist has conducted a study of 516 children born in Sydney hospitals from 1997 to 2000. Tests last year showed that 29.3 per cent of the children, whose families had acquired cats in the past five years, had atopy, or a positive skin prick test for allergy. This is compared to 47.2 per cent who had atopy but lived in a feline-free household. There were similar findings for dog-owning families, with 51.8 per cent of kids without dogs testing positive for atopy and only 39 per cent positive if they had a dog. However, the study focused on cats because some of the families already had dogs at the time the children were born. None of the families involved in the study had a pet cat at the time of their child's birth. The results were in line with similar studies carried out in European countries, said Swedish-born Dr Almqvist, who now works for the Woolcock Institute for Medical Research at the University of Sydney. "Children who are exposed to pets or children who grow up on a farm have a reduced risk of atopy," she said. "The theory is it is some sort of modulation of the immune system.""

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