When my son was first diagnosed with asthma several years ago, one of the first questions we ever got at any doctor’s office was about whether we had any smokers in the house (no), carpeting in his bedroom (yes), or any pets (no). I never really wondered much about the questions, I just answered them routinely as asked.
Whether or not to get a pet has been a repeated discussion in our house throughout the years since, and frankly we are still in that debate. The new research showing how household dogs protect against asthma and infection in children is not helping the one in the family who is on the side of not getting a pet right now. And that would be me.
There are about 39.5 million people in the United States who have been diagnosed with asthma in their lifetimes, including 10.5 million children, according to the CDC. The growing rationale behind these alarming rates is that we are too darn clean now with our antibacterial everything. They call it the Hygiene Hypothesis. Other theories include asthma that is triggered by allergies, while others rely on an immune system response, or even parasites.
It’s a conundrum, you know. To be clean or not to be clean — that is the question!
It has been known that children’s risk for developing allergies and asthma is lower for children who are exposed in early infancy to a dog in the household, but until now we did not know why. As it turns out, the gut bacteria (known as microbes) in children from homes where dogs are permitted both indoors and outdoors differ from those in homes without dogs. The exposure to dust in the homes with dogs somehow changes the gut in a way that reduces the immune system’s reactions to common allergens and reducing asthmatic reactions.
Other studies have shown that antibiotic use in infancy is linked to higher asthma rates in children, as is acetaminophen use. However, that could be a chicken and egg scenario, whereas asthmatic children needed more medications, or it may be that the medications also played with the developing gut bacteria.
I have written several times before about probiotics and how important it is to maintain good gut health for a variety of ailments. The more I have learned, the more I believe that improving gut health is an important strategy for maintaining health and protecting the body against infection, reaction and disease. If a dog in the home can reshape gut bacteria to make it more resistant to respiratory reactions, does it not perhaps confirm that all of the antibacterial products we use maybe have done more harm than good? It certainly makes me wonder.
Regardless of what medical answers for asthma will come down the road, if you want a child who does not have asthmatic reactions, you may want to consider getting (or keeping) a dog.
Image source: Morguefile.com
Jessica also recently wrote:
9 Simple Ways to be Kinder to Your Body in 2014
How to Get Your Holiday Calorie Burn On
The Big Misconception About Coffee & Health
Food Allergy Talk with the Super Nanny: 7 Tips for Staying Safe at Holiday Parties
Taking an Antidepressant? How Exercise Could Help Combat Side Effects
Science Proves Celebrities Actually Influence Our Health Goals
What Dwight Howard Can Teach Kids About Nutrition
10 Steps to Achieving Your Health Goals in 2014