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Did you know there could possibly be a new way to reduce the risk of asthma in children? And it comes from an unexpected source. Animals! This may seem a bit counterintuitive, but yes, there is a new study that suggests dogs or other farm animals may help in combating the risk of getting asthma in the first place. But first, let’s start small. What is asthma?

Asthma is a disease that infects the airways of the lungs. The airways become swollen and red, which leads to extreme sensitiveness and increased likeliness of allergic reactions. As the airways become smaller, air passes through with much difficulty, and symptoms such as wheezing, chest tightness, and coughing can occur. The causes for asthma differs from child to child, yet allergies and airborne particles are common. As of now, 9.3% of the children in the United States suffer from asthma. However, a study by Uppsala University shows that the early exposure of animals, such as dogs, to children can help introduce them to more microorganisms and reduce their risk of asthma.

 Animals and pets may actually help significantly in preventing asthma from a young age.

Image Source: Barbara Peacock

The Uppsala University team cross-linked the Swedish medical records system (which identifies each person from birth with a unique ID) and the dog-license register to test for a relationship between two factors: having a dog in the first year of a child’s life and the incidence of asthma up to age six. This was done over the course of nine years, with one million children observed. The results? Those who grew up with a dog had 15% less chance of suffering from asthma than those without a dog.

The risk of asthma was even lower, at about 52%, for children of registered farm-animal workers. However, there is an important distinction to be made. Having a dog can prevent children’s asthma at a young age, but it’s another story raising a pet after the child has already developed asthma. Children who already have asthma can develop allergies to new pets.

This study is critical in taking a step towards the prevention of asthma as a whole. As children with asthma tend to avoid symptoms such as coughing and wheezing, they may develop certain habits that lead to activity and lower stamina, such as staying indoors, not moving around actively, or not exercising at all. These may become hard-to-break habits as they grow into adults that cause a negative effect on their health overall. Thus, studies on prevention of asthma are imperative in leading healthier lives for children. After all, children are our generation’s future.

Feature Image Source: Asthma Inhaler by NIAID

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