A new study from Washington University — which examined 442 inner-city children and their risk for asthma when exposed to different allergens — suggests that living with cats, mice and cockroaches may help fight the development of asthma in young children.
The children studied live in St. Louis, Baltimore, Boston and New York City. Findings — taken through analysis of dust located inside homes — suggest that those around higher levels of allergens as an infant were less likely to develop childhood asthma.
Another facet of the study examined umbilical cord blood. These findings suggest that children exposed to tobacco smoke in utero were more at risk for asthma, according to AJC.com. Higher rates were also linked to mothers who reported being stressed and/or depressed.
The study’s co-author, Dr. Leonard Bacharier, an asthma specialist at Washington University, said in a statement, “This study suggests we may not be focusing on the right targets for preventing asthma in the inner city.”
“We may not need to worry about making sure the household environment is maximally clean. In fact, it’s possible that could be counterproductive,” Bacharier continued. “But helping women manage the challenges of mental health may make a difference.”
The research was published in Allergy and Clinical Immunology and received funding from the federal government. It also featured researchers from Boston University, Columbia University, Johns Hopkins, U.C. San Francisco and the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Those children studied had at least one parent with asthma; nearly one-third of them were diagnosed with asthma by age 7, AJC.com notes.
Which allergen appears to be the most “protective” against the disease which inflames the airways?
Not too far behind, though, are mouse and cat allergens.
These findings may lock horns with previous research which exclaimed that feces and saliva of cockroaches can be harmful with regard to asthma. Still, the study’s co-author said that the bacteria could actually help bolster the immune system at a young age.
A crystal-clean environment, Bacharier said, could cause the immune system to go into over-drive later in life, once exposed to the allergens.
Nevertheless, there is still opposing research on the matter, with some studies suggesting that exposure to dogs and farm animals is helpful at a young age. Yet, other studies list dogs as catalysts for asthma, AJC.com points out.