a baby and a puppy asleep on carpet
a baby and a puppy asleep on carpet

Number of Pets in Infancy Tied to Lower Allergy Risk

A study finds the effect is dose-dependent, with each additional pet further lowering the odds of developing allergies.

Shawna Williams
Shawna Williams

Shawna joined The Scientist in 2017 and is now a senior editor and news director. She holds a bachelor's degree in biochemistry from Colorado College and a graduate certificate and science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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Dec 19, 2018

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Past studies have suggested that living with pets during the first year of life lowers the risk that a child will develop allergies. A paper published in PLOS One today (December 19) now finds that this effect is dose-dependent—that is, the more pets in a baby’s house, the lower the risk that the child will go on to develop allergies years later.

“This is the hygiene hypothesis at work,” coauthor Bill Hesselmar, an associate professor at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, tells The New York Times, referring to the longstanding idea that a lack of exposure to infectious diseases, microbes, or parasites in developed countries has led to climbing rates of allergies and other autoimmune conditions.

Hesselmar and his coauthors analyzed data from two previous Swedish studies, one that distributed a questionnaire to 7- and 8-year-olds, and another that followed children from [yes?]...

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