I was sitting on my couch this morning, drinking my first of two cups of coffee, watching my normal newscast before getting ready for the day. During a commercial break a commercial for an air purifier pops on the screen promising to remove a ridiculous amount of particulates from the air down to three microns – whatever that is, I’m assuming it’s small.
That commercial brought back memories of a job I did several years ago, an office for a prominent local allergist… I’d heard quite often that one of the leading causes of asthma and other respiratory maladies (especially in kids) is the fact that modern homes are too pure in terms of air quality. The idea is counterintuitive of course, but a meeting with the owner about what a great job my guys did provided the opportunity to seek a little free advice. My wife was pregnant with our first so it was of great concern.
His response was surprising even to me, half expecting the standard “well, yes to an extent, but you’re missing some pertinent info” kind of answer. He said, paraphrasing, that there was a growing body of evidence that showed the idea to be true, and added that his recommendation to parents, to aid in helping their kids to avoid developing childhood asthma is to keep two medium-sized dogs in the house while they are growing up – from birth. He went on to explain that cats don’t provide the same benefits as dogs and that the benefits from two dogs far outweigh just one. The theory behind the suggestion is that in today’s purified homes, the body doesn’t have anything to attack so the immune system becomes hyper-vigilant and ends up attacking important functions in the body, which brings about asthma, because at that point when even the smallest little particle is introduced for the immune system to finally do battle with – well, let’s say your immune system goes Rambo on it. And the collateral damage is the asthma.
I’m going to have to do some heavy research on this because my simple searches are showing mixed results – primarily, that people who already have asthma should avoid having dogs because 30% of asthma sufferers are allergic to them…what I haven’t been able to find, yet, is data backing the theory that too much purity is the problem prior to developing allergies. Not surprisingly, finding information about purifying air, especially from those who are selling air purifiers is not so hard. But when you think about it, air purity as a problem only makes sense. It’s a well-known fact that allergies and asthma are on the increase, while air quality has only improved over that same time period (outdoors and especially indoors).
Ah, there it is… The studies are on Notes 47, 48 and 49 and show: “that the effects of exposure to cat and dog allergens worked in the converse fashion; exposure during the first year of life was found to reduce the risk of allergic sensitization and of developing asthma later in life”. Generally I’m going to stay away from Wiki, but in this case, they’ve got the relevant studies. Of course, I’m not too surprised that it’s difficult to find a lot of information that shows that having dogs and cats and playing in the dirt and not having a completely sterilized home are good things – you can’t sell that. This brings meaning to the old phrase, “rub some dirt on it, you’ll be fine” to which I am a firm adherent.
In any event, I’ll give you two guesses as to what is recommended to help combat asthma but you’re only going to need one.
Also, just so you know, for both of my daughter’s first years we had two cats and two dogs (up to three dogs for a time).