Picture: A small cat 
A cat and small children in
one household are not a
good idea; © Hemera

This is the conclusion reached by scientists from the GSF – National Research Center for Environment and Health (GSF), Helmholtz-Association, when they evaluated the data of more than 2,000 children from Leipzig and Munich. The study did not approve earlier papers, according to which contact with cat allergens during the first few months of a child’s life has a protective effect.

The team of authors could even show that apart from keeping cats, even just repeated contact with cat hair within or outside the parental household increases the frequency of allergic sensitisation on the basis of the detection of IgE-specific antibodies against cat allergens.

Up to the age of two the scientists found clear connections between exposure to cat allergens at home and the frequency of allergic sensitisation. This connection was found to a lesser extent in six-year-old health outcomes “Contact with cat allergens at home does not have the main significance in this age group,” explains the head of the research unit Environmental Epidemiology at the GSF Institute of Epidemiology, Dr. Joachim Heinrich.

Due to their greater range of action older children also come into contact with animal hair, when they are with friends and relatives, in child-care centres and playgrounds, and can get sensitised there. Statistical connections on the basis of cat allergen exposure at home are blurred by exposure outside the children’s homes. In all the scientists found allergic sensitisation to cat allergens in 1.3 per cent of the two-year-old and 5 per cent of the six-year-old children.

“The most important risk factor for allergies in children,“ Joachim Heinrich, “is, however, still the family history. If the parents suffer from hay fever, asthma or pet allergies, their children are more likely to also show allergic symptoms”.

MEDICA.de; Source: GSF - National Research Center for Environment and Health