Take Away Point if you’re too tried to read the whole article:
If there was a dog (any type of dog) that lived in the house while the mother was pregnant or during the first year of the child’s life, then that child could be protected for allergic disease (that’s hay fever, asthma, and eczema) up to about 6 years of age.
Wait a second, sleeping with a Chihuahua MIGHT actually help my asthma?!?
As a doctor (or as a patient) you hear plenty of old wives tales: cold weather will give you a cold, feed a fever/starve a cold, don’t drink milk while sick, if you keep making those faces your face will stay like that . . . but one in particular always made me chuckle, if you sleep with a Chihuahua it will cure your asthma.
It made me chuckle since many of asthmatic patients also have allergic triggers, and what’s a common allergy trigger – dogs. (And for the record there are no non-allergic dogs. I wish there were, but there aren’t). But one lecture at the recent American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology (AAAAI) made me think, hey maybe I’ve had it wrong with this Chihuahua business!
To understand what I’m referring to we first need to talk about the microbiome. Generally speaking, it refers to the diversity and number of bacteria in your body. The keynote speakers, Dr VonMutius, Dr Gallo, and Dr Lynch, discussed how maintaining this flora could help allergic/atopic disease. It’s a complicated topic to boil down, but if forced, you could refer to the argument of the hygiene hypothesis. How with increasing sanitation we might be sanitizing our ability to deal with allergens. In the past, the arguments were: maybe we all need to live on the farm, or clean less, or eat more dirt, or never use antibiotics. None of these suggestions is particularly appealing. Hygiene and cleanliness is critical in helping prevent disease and antibiotics (used judiciously) are important. What they showed in the study was maybe we just need a dog!
The study took a prospective look at children up to 6 years of age. Briefly, if there was a dog that lived in the house while the mother was pregnant or during the first year of the child’s life, then that child could be protected for allergic disease (that’s hay fever, asthma, and eczema) up to about 6 years of age. I have to be clear, this does not mean it will cure allergies, but that it could be protective. So, why is the dog so important? Having a dog in the household significantly increases the diversity and number of the bacteria in the home, and this increase in the diversity and number of bacteria helps create a more robust microbiome that could be protective for allergies.
What was my take away from this lecture? I should definitely still clean my house, use antibiotics ONLY for bacterial infections (and not colds), and that having my dog sleep in my bed is a medical necessity!
I might be well over 1 year of age, and my dog might only be part Chihuahua, but if my exercise-induced asthma miraculously disappears I will DEFINITELY keep yall posted!
- Tippins K. Chihuahuas and Asthma. J Fla Med Assoc. 1965. April; 52: 246-7.
- von Hertzen L, Beutler B, Bienenstock J, Blaser M, Cani PD, Eriksson J, Färkkilä M, Haahtela T, Hanski I, Jenmalm MC, Kere J, Knip M, Kontula K, Koskenvuo M, Ling C, Mandrup-Poulsen T, von Mutius E, Mäkelä MJ, Paunio T, Pershagen G, Renz H, Rook G, Saarela M, Vaarala O, Veldhoen M, de Vos WM. Helsinki alert of biodiversity and health. Ann Med. 2015. April 23; 1-8
- Orivuori L, Mustonen K, de Goffau MC, Hakala S, Paasela M, Roduit C, Dalphin JC, Genuneit J, Lauener R, Riedler J, Weber J, von Mutius E, Pekkanen J, Harmsen HJ, Vaarala O; PASTURE Study Group. High levels of fecal calprotectin at age 2months as a marker of intestinal inflammation predicts atopic dermatitis and asthma by age 6. Clin Exp Allergy. 2015 May:45(5): 928-39.
- Lynch SV, Wood RA, Boushey H, Bacharier LB, Bloomberg GR, Kattan M, O’Connor GT, Sandel MT, Calatroni A, Matsui E, Johnson CC, Lynn H, Visness CM, Jaffee KF, Gergen PJ, Gold DR, Wright RJ, Fujimura K, Rauch M, Busse WW, Gern JE. Effects of early-life exposure to allergens and bacteria on recurrent wheeze and atopy in urban children. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2014 Sep: 134(3):593-601.