Exposure to animal fur within the first 3 months of life decreases the risk of childhood asthma, according to research presented at the 2014 European Respiratory Society (ERS)’s International Congress.
While similar studies have indicated that exposure to a variety of environments could curb asthma and allergies, research hasn’t been replicated in urban settings, according to an ERS statement.
“Previous studies have suggested that microbes found in rural settings can protect from asthma,” the study’s contributor Christina Tischer of the Helmholtz Zentrum München Research Centre in Germany commented. “An animal skin might also be a reservoir for various kinds of microbes, following similar mechanisms as has been observed in rural environments.”
For their study, researchers periodically gave questionnaires to parents, which delved into their child’s early animal fur exposure, health outcomes, and risk factors. For 10 year old children, detailed information pertaining to their addition, information on specific immunoglobulin E (IgE) reactions to aero-allergens was available. Overall, the investigators used the data of 2441 children for their analysis, 55% of which slept on animal skin.
Analyzing the data of 2,441 children, the investigators found a 79% reduced asthma risk among children aged 6 that were exposed to animal skin. By the age of 10, the risk dropped to 41%, an ERS release pointed out.
“Sleeping on animal skin showed significant inverse associations with ever wheezing (aOR (95%CI): 0.75 (0.60-0.94), ever physician-diagnosed asthma (0.62 (0.39-1.00)) and ever physician-diagnosed hay fever (0.65 (0.46-0.92)) up to 10 years of age,” the authors reported.
Furthermore, the researchers reported there was no noteworthy association between an eczema diagnosis and aero-allergens sensitivity among 10 year olds.
In light of their discovery, Tischer suggested increased protection against asthma might not be solely caused by early exposure to rural microbes.
“Our findings have confirmed that it is crucial to study further the actual microbial environment within the animal fur to confirm these associations,” she said.