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There is more evidence that germs are not the enemy of good health, with a new study finding that having a pet dog in the family home may reduce the incidence of allergies in children.
Researchers from Melbourne's Murdoch Childrens Research Institute looked at the incidence of egg allergy in a group of 5000 infants.
Around 10 per cent of babies who lived in homes without a pet dog reported an egg allergy, compared to 6 per cent among those whose family owned a pooch.
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Having siblings also appeared to lower the chance of developing an egg allergy, with the more brothers and sisters a baby had, the lower the incidence of allergy. While 10.8 per cent of babies without siblings had an egg allergy, just 3.7 per cent of the surveyed group with three or more brothers or sisters was allergic to eggs.
Lead researcher Dr Jennifer Koplin told media she believed the study's findings supported the 'hygiene hypothesis', which argues that a lack of exposure to germs, microbes and other infectious agents as a child can hinder the natural development of the immune system.
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Dr Koplin said the decreased incidence of egg allergies among children exposed to dogs and siblings in their first year of life "could be due to the fact contact with young siblings and pets may have a protective effect by exposing children to infections and germs."
Around 90 per cent of food allergies, when your immune system has a toxic reaction to a substance, are caused by six types of food: cow’s milk, hen’s eggs, soybeans, nuts (especially peanuts), wheat, and fish and shellfish.
The incidence of food allergies is on the rise, with some studies in the US pointing to an 18 per cent increase in reporting between 1997 and 2007.
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