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JOURNAL: Allergy 2003;58:1033-1036.
AUTHORS: Dr. Rudiger von Kries
ABSTRACT: Allowing cats to be in a child's bedroom starting the first year of life may prevent the later development of atopic asthma.
COMMENTARY: Although many reports have shown an anti-asthma effect for early cat exposure, others have actually tied such exposure to an increased risk of asthma. These seemingly discordant findings may relate to the timing and intensity of exposure.
In the current study, Dr. Rudiger von Kries, from the Institute for Social Paediatrics and Adolescent Medicine in Munchen, Germany, and colleagues evaluated the effect of pet exposure on asthma risk in 8216 children, 5 to 7 years of age, living in rural regions of Bavaria.
In children with pets, exposure was divided into three groups: pet keeping in the first year of life but not later on, continuous exposure from the first year of life onwards, and current pet keeping but not during the first year of life. In addition, the parents of such children were asked whether the pet was allowed in the child's bedroom.
In general, pet exposure had no bearing on the risk of atopic disease, the researchers found. However, children continuously exposed to cats who had cats allowed in their bedrooms were 67% less likely than others to develop atopic asthma and 45% less likely to develop hay fever.
"We hypothesize that allowing cats in the child's bedroom from the first year of life onwards might be an indicator of early and intensive exposure to cats which appears to protect against the development of atopic asthma," the authors note.