A study of almost 600 youngsters discovered that early exposure to cat and dogs prevented them becoming allergic later in life.
The first year of a child’s life is the most important period in building up resistance, the results of the study in the journal Clinical & Experimental Allergy showed.
Experts studied blood samples of participants at the age of 18, comparing the levels of antibodies to dog and cat allergens between those who had pets as children and those who had not. Young men who had dogs during the first year of their lives had about half the risk of becoming sensitised to dogs compared with non dog-owning families.
Both men and women who had cats in the first year of their lives were also about half as likely to be sensitised to the animals, compared to those who did not. Ganesha Wegienka, of the department of public health sciences, Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit, who led the research, said: “Exposing children to cats and dogs in the home is not going to increase the risk of sensitisation to these animals. It might even decrease the risk."