Cat and dog ownership during/after the first year of life and risk for sensitization and reported allergy symptoms at age 13
Journal article, 2019
Background: Avoidance of pets as a strategy for preventing atopic diseases has been questioned. This study aimed to identify the risk of sensitization and allergic symptoms at age 13 in relation to dog- and cat-keeping during and after the first year of life.
Methods: The study included all children born at Östersund Hospital in Northern Sweden between February 1996 and January 1997 (n = 1231). At inclusion, parents were asked to answer questionnaires about lifestyle, including cat- and dog-keeping. Dog allergy, cat allergy, hay fever, and asthma were diagnosed based on parental reported allergic symptoms at 13 years of age (n = 834). The risks of sensitization or allergy in relation to dog- and cat-keeping during and after the first year of life were analyzed with logistic regression. To adjust for reverse causation, all subjects that had reported avoidance of pets due to allergic symptoms of the child or allergy in the family (n = 177) were excluded.
Results: Dog- or cat-keeping during the first year of life reduced the risk of sensitization to dog or cat allergens, respectively, and to birch and to at least one of the 10 allergens tested. Cat-keeping, both during and after the first year of life, reduced the risk of cat allergy and hay fever. Having a dog at home during the first year of life reduced the risk of dog and cat allergy, whereas dog-keeping after the first year of life did not affect allergic symptoms.
Conclusions: Cat ownership, either during or after the first year of life, may be a strategy for preventing the development of cat allergy and hay fever later in life. Dog ownership reduced the risk of sensitization to dog and birch allergen, and also the risk of cat and dog allergy, but had no effect on hay fever.