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HEALTH

Dogs lower risk of childhood ailment: Danish study

Want healthy kids? Get a dog. That’s the take-away from a “surprising” new study from a Danish research centre.

According to a report from the science site Videnskab.dk, a Danish study has found that children’s risk of developing eczema (atopic dermatitis), a common childhood condition that results in itchy and irritated skin, is greatly reduced when there is a dog in the house. 
 
In fact, the more dogs the better, as the risk of developing eczema falls in tact with the number of four-legged companions present. 
 
Analyzing data from more than 400 children over several years, the Copenhagen Studies on Asthma in Childhood (COPSAC) found a “strongly reduced risk” of eczema when babies are exposed to dogs. 
 
“We are really surprised by the result. I’m particularly impressed that the risk falls along with the number of dogs. There is very strong statistical documentation showing a clear connection between dogs and the risk of childhood eczema,” Hans Bisgaard from the Danish Pediatric Asthma Center told Videnskab.dk. 
 
The researchers followed two large cohorts of children. One group consisted of 411 children born to mothers with asthma while the other was made up of 700 randomly-selected children. In the first group, children without dogs in the home had a 48 percent risk of getting eczema, while that number dropped all the way to 25 percent when dogs are present. 
 
The results in the second group were less dramatic, with the presence of a single bringing the risks down from 29 to 20 percent. However, researchers found that when two or more dogs were present, the risk plummeted all the way to just five percent. 
 
“With two independent cohorts, we have shown that dogs in the home significantly reduce children’s risk for developing eczema,” Bisgaard said. 
 
Although he said the benefits of having dogs in the household are clear, Bisgaard can’t yet explain why. 
 
“We don’t know the exact reasons but I suspect it has to do with bacteria. Dogs stick their noses where we humans don’t. They are unhygienic and thus spread a lot of bacteria,” he said.
 
“It’s important to stress that this is an interpretation but the results support our hypothesis, shared by many other researchers, that the reason so many children suffer from childhood eczema and other chronic illnesses is an imbalance in the bacteria environment early in their lives,” Bisgaard added.
 
According to the Danish Healthcare Services, around 20 percent of all children suffer from eczema.
 
The Danish study has recently been published in the journal Allergy. 
 

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HEALTH

New Year’s Eve injury rate bounces back to normal in Denmark

The number of people treated for fireworks-related injuries on New Year's Eve in Denmark has bounced back to normal levels, with 16 people treated for eye injuries after the celebrations.

New Year's Eve injury rate bounces back to normal in Denmark
Fireworks led to 16 eye injuries on New Year's Eve. Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

This is up from the unusually low 12 people who were treated for eye injuries during and after the celebrations last year. Two of this year’s injuries are sufficiently severe that the injured are expected to lose their sight completely or partially.

“After a very quiet evening last year, it is back to a normal, average level,” Ulrik Correll Christensen, head doctor at the ophthalmology department at Rigshospitalet, told the country’s Ritzau newswire. “It is a completely extraordinary situation at the eye departments on New Year’s Eve. It is not at all something we see on a daily basis.” 

Christensen has tallied up reports from all of Denmark’s eye units, including the major ones in Copenhagen, Aalborg, Aarhus, Odense and Næstved. 

He said that 15 out of the 16 cases had not worn safety goggles, two thirds were between ten and thirty years old. 

“The most important thing is to follow the advice when firing fireworks. Wear safety goggles and keep a good distance,” he said. 

The number of ambulance call outs on New Year’s Eve is also back to normal, with 1,188 emergency vehicles sent out, compared to 875 last year. 

In the Capital Region of Copenhagen, there were 44 call-outs were related to fireworks, of which 16 were for hand injuries and 14 for eye injuries. 

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