The higher the dog allergen levels were in the homes, the lower the risk was for the child developing eczema by age 4, according to the study.
Most of the 636 children in the study were white. Among the 131 black children, few had dogs as pets, but those whose families got a cat by the time they were age 1 were 12 times more likely to have eczema at age 4. However, due to the small numbers, the results were not significant.
The study also looked at the association between eczema and eggs, milk and nuts, some of the most common food allergies in infants. Some experts recommend delaying common allergic foods as a strategy to protect children against allergies but the study findings did not support that.
"We tend to be so focused on food allergies with young children, but the study showed aeroallergens [airborne allergens such as pet dander or auto emissions] may be more important than has been previously understood," Epstein said.
The study found that delaying the introduction of eggs into infants' diets may have no impact on their risk for getting eczema in later years, with some indication that it benefited babies when introduced early. However, those findings were not statistically significant. Findings relating to nuts also were inconclusive.
Diet guidelines for infants recommend no solid foods until 6 months, with serial introduction after that to monitor the effect, said Dr. Wanda Phipatanakul, an associate physician at Children's Hospital in Boston.
Phipatanakul said the study, published in an upcoming print issue of the Journal of Pediatrics, was carefully done, but was not definitive. Other research had shown conflicting results on the impact of cats and dogs, she said.
"The jury is still out," said Phipatanakul, who is also an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. "I don't think anyone, includin
All rights reserved