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German researchers have apparently confirmed that keeping a dog as a family pet will reduce the chance that kids will develop allergies - a finding which backs a theory that having a mutt about the house "trains the immune system to be less sensitive to potential triggers for allergies like asthma, eczema and hay fever".

A team from the National Research Centre for Environmental Health in Munich, led by Joachim Heinrich, carried out a six-year study of 9,000 kids, Reuters explains. Parents "answered detailed questionnaires about possible allergic symptoms in their children, from birth to the age of six, and blood samples were also taken from a third of the group to test for antibodies to common allergens".

Heinrich confirmed: "Our results show clearly that the presence of a dog in the home during subjects' infancy is associated with a significantly low level of sensitization to pollens and inhaled allergens."

Significantly, children who had frequent contact with dogs but didn't have one at home lacked the same protective effect. The reason is unclear, but it's suggested youngsters may get "beneficial early exposure to germs carried into the house on the animal's fur".

The team's findings are published in European Respiratory Journal. ®

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