Prenatal pets protective for allergies

PRENATAL pet-exposure may protect children against developing asthma and allergies, a study suggests.

In what is believed to be the first study of its kind, researchers found levels of IgE antibodies were 28% lower in babies whose mothers kept a cat or dog in the house while pregnant in comparison to those born into pet-free homes.

The research, carried out by the Public Health Sciences Department at Henry Ford Health System, in Michigan, US, also found that this protective effect was even stronger statistically when comparing children born vaginally to those born through caesarean section.

The findings back the so-called ‘hygiene hypothesis’, the authors said. It has been theorised that vaginal births exposed babies to a more diverse and higher burden of bacteria, boosting their immune system against allergies.

The researchers said it was possible an enhanced household bacterial diversity provided by pets had a