Pet cats double adults' risk for allergies, study says
(CBS) Allergic to cats? If you're not, you might be should you decide to get one.
A new study suggests adults who get a cat are almost twice as likely to become allergic to it even if they've never had allergies before.
For the study, published in the Dec. 12 issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, Italian researchers gave allergy tests to nearly 6,300 Europeans aged 20 to 44 who weren't allergic to cats. The people were tested at the beginning of the study, then during a follow-up appointment nine years later. The researchers determined 473 of the people owned cats at the beginning of the study, 651 got one during the study, and 700 had a cat during the entire nine-year period.
By study's end, 231 people became sensitized to cats. Using a statistical analysis, the researchers determined that people who got a cat during the nine-year study were 1.8 times more likely to develop a cat allergy compared to those who didn't have a cat during both tests. People with other preexisting allergies, nasal allergies, or asthma were between three and four times more likely to develop sensitivity to cats.
Interesting enough, 89 people who either had a cat at both tests or got one during the study forbade their feline from entering their bedrooms. None of them developed cat allergies.
"Acquiring a cat in adulthood nearly doubles the risk of onset of specific sensitization to cat, and this effect seems to be more pronounced when the cat is allowed in the bedroom," the authors wrote.
Is there a way cat lovers can protect themselves from this effect? Not unless you start early. The study showed people who owned cats during childhood were more protected from becoming sensitized to cats.
"If you are an adult with asthma and/or allergies, you should think twice about getting a cat and particularly, if you do so, letting it into your bedroom," Dr. Andy Nish of the Allergy and Asthma Care Center in Gainesville, Georgia, who wasn't involved in the study, told Reuters. "If the cat needs to be indoors... consider a HEPA filter for your bedroom and consider washing the cat at least once a week."
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