A few weeks ago, I read an article about allergies and it mentioned that sometimes pets are allergic to human dander. I wondered how often that is discovered to be the cause of a pet’s sneezing, runny eyes, and other symptoms when we have so many allergens around us.
I also wondered if I should vacuum more often.
Now, I’ve just discovered that dog dander and dust could actually help protect against infections from the respiratory virus that is associated with the development of asthma. Researchers have found that feeding mice house dust from homes where dogs are present protected them against a childhood airway infectious agent known as RSV (Repiratory Syncytial Virus). This is a common virus among infants and toddlers that can cause mild to severe respiratory problems and is often associated with asthma.
The study had three groups: mice who were fed dust from homes with dogs before being infected with RSV, mice infected with RSV without exposure to dog dander, and a control group of mice not infected with RSV. The mice who were fed the dust containing dog dander did not exhibit symptoms of having an infection from RSV.
Aside from helping the body create an immunity to RSV, it seems exposure to the dog dander created a distinct bacterial content in the gastrointestinal tract that differed from the mice who were not exposed or fed the dust. It’s been hypothesized that homes that expose children to various environmental elements contribute to creating stronger immune systems.
From my personal experience, I’ve known friends who have pets and small children and allergies are not as prevalent as those friends of mine with children but no pets. While geographic location, genetics, and other factors come into play, it does seem plausible that more exposure to variables in our environment can help us fight off allergens when we are surrounded by them on a day to day basis.
What’s your experience with pets and allergies? Do you think it makes sense that having a pet could help protect against getting asthma? Leave your comments below!
photo by NathanF