Dust and pets can protect against asthma

New study reveals that dogs, cats and dusty nurseries can help children build immunity to asthma

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Some dirt is good dirt, according to scientists who have found that children can be protected from developing asthma by exposing them to dust and allergens (substances that can trigger allergic responses).

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Many modern homes are literally kept too clean thanks to all the powerful cleaning agents now available. However, this means children aren’t being exposed to the allergens in dust and dirt and are not building immunity to them.

Children going to nursery and those with a dog or cat at home were found to be in contact with more dust bacteria than those who didn’t go to a nursery or didn’t have a pet. The presence of dust bacteria at home was shown to be linked to the incidence of asthma in children – the more dust, the less likely the child was to become an asthma sufferer.

Researchers also found that children on farms were less likely to develop asthma than children living in cities.

Professor Raina Maier, who conducted the research for the American Society of Microbiology, concluded that exposing children to dust can boost their immune systems, protecting them from developing asthma.

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Allergies, such as asthma, have risen dramatically in the past 30 years. Asthma now affects people in one in five households and on average, is responsible for a hospital admission every 7.5 minutes.

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