Cats Increases Allergy Risks
new study contradicts past studies that suggested
that owning a cat could help protect young children
from pet allergies.
the new study, published in the May 2007 issue of the Journal
of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, cats and cat
allergens in the home clearly raise the risk of the allergic
sensitization of children up to the age of two.
For older children,
however, the influence of the environment at home on the development
of cat allergen sensitization decreases.
The study was
conducted by scientists from the
GSF – National
Research Center for Environment and Health (GSF), Helmholtz-Association,
when they evaluated the data of more than 2,000 children from Leipzig
and Munich. The team of authors could even show
that apart from keeping cats, even just repeated contact with cat
hair within or outside the parental household increases the frequency
of allergic sensitization on the basis of the detection of IgE-specific
antibodies against cat allergens.
The study is
based on data of the multicentric Lifestyle – Immune -
System – Allergy (LISA) study, which sought to demonstrate
the influence of lifestyle on the immune system and the development
of allergic diseases in children.
In the framework
of the study the parents of the children born between late 1997
and early 1999 were repeatedly questioned about different family
and health parameters as well as the frequency of contact with
cats and other pets. The longitudinal analysis of the development
of allergic sensitization due to contact with cats, as it has
just been published, also relies on a house dust sample taken
from the parental home three months after each child’s
birth, in which cat allergens were determined, as well as on the
determination of the content of IgE antibodies to cat allergens
in the children’s blood. The blood
tests were carried out at the age of two and six years.
Up to the
age of two the scientists found clear connections between exposure
to cat allergens at home and the frequency of allergic sensitization.
This connection was found to a lesser extent in six-year-old health
with cat allergens at home does not have the main significance
in this age group,” says the head
of the research unit Environmental Epidemiology at the GSF Institute
of Epidemiology, Dr. Joachim Heinrich. “The
most important risk factor for allergies in children is,
however, still the family history. If the parents suffer from hay
fever, asthma or pet allergies, their children are more likely
to also show allergic symptoms”.
The study also
shows that risk families in particular must still
be advised not to keep cats and to avoid contact
with cats in general. This, however, does not guarantee
sufficient protection from allergic sensitisation
with cat allergens.
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