Exposure to cats shortly after birth raises a child's risk of eczema, new research suggests.
The study, which tracked 486 children until the age of 1, was presented Sunday at the American Thoracic Society International Conference in San Diego.
While 27.6 percent of kids with cats as pets developed eczema in that time, only 17.8 percent of kids without cats developed the dry skin condition.
On the other hand, being around two or more dogs in the home conferred a slightly protective effect, said lead researcher Dr. Esmeralda Morales, a pediatric pulmonary fellow at the University of Arizona, in Tucson.
"Other studies have found that having cats or dogs at home seems to be protective against allergic disease, so we expected to have similar findings," Morales said in a statement.
Morales noted that the children in the study who developed eczema by the age of 1 might still wind up having a reduced risk of asthma or allergies later in life. "The findings do seem to add more questions about pets and asthma and allergies. Since there are a lot of contradictory data out there already, clearly it's a topic that needs further research," she added.