Dog ownership and contact during childhood and later allergy development

C-M. Chen, V. Morgenstern, W. Bischof, O. Herbarth, M. Borte, H. Behrendt, U. Krämer, A. von Berg, D. Berdel, C. P. Bauer, S. Koletzko, H-E. Wichmann, J. Heinrich, the Influences of Lifestyle Related Factors on the Human Immune System and Development of Allergies in Children (LISA) Study Group and the German Infant Nutrition Intervention Programme (GINI) Study Group

Abstract

The effect of dog ownership during childhood on the development of allergy has been investigated in few studies with conflicting results. The association between dog contact and indoor endotoxin exposure during infancy and the development of allergic sensitisation and atopic disease up to age 6 yrs was investigated.

Two ongoing birth cohorts, the German Infant Nutrition Intervention Programme (GINI; n = 1,962) and the Influences of Lifestyle Related Factors on the Human Immune System and Development of Allergies in Children (LISA; n = 1,193), were analysed. In both studies, information on children's contact with dogs and their allergic symptoms and doctor-diagnosed allergic disease were collected during follow-up using questionnaires. Specific immunoglobulin E to common aeroallergens was measured at age 6 yrs. House dust samples were collected at age 3 months and the amount of endotoxin was determined.

Dog ownership in early childhood was associated with a significantly lower rate of mixed pollen and inhalant sensitisation but not with dog sensitisation or allergic symptoms and diseases up to age 6 yrs. Regular contact with dogs, without ownership, during childhood was not associated with those health outcomes. No associations were found between house dust endotoxin exposure during infancy and sensitisation outcomes.

In conclusion, dog ownership in early childhood protects against the development of inhalant sensitisation and this effect cannot be attributed to the simultaneous exposure to endotoxin.

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