Which Pets, Environmental Factors Contribute to Asthma in School-Age Children?

dog dander, pet allergies, dust
dog dander, pet allergies, dust
A Chinese study explored the links between pediatric asthma, household pets, and domestic environmental factors such as mold.

Among children, pet-keeping has been shown to increase the risk for respiratory symptoms, particularly asthma and asthma-associated symptoms. A cross-sectional study was conducted to examine the link between domestic pets and respiratory health among schoolchildren from Zhongshan, a city located in southern China. Results of the analysis were published in the Journal of Asthma.

The researchers sought to explore whether domestic pet exposure was related to the development of asthma and asthma-related symptoms, and to evaluate the combined effect of pet-keeping and domestic environmental factors. Questionnaires were used to select those children who qualified for the analysis. An internationally standardized questionnaire from the American Thoracic Society was adopted and revised based on actual situations observed in China.

A total of 11,611 Chinese schoolchildren were randomly recruited for participation in the current study, including 6087 boys and 5524 girls. Between March and July 2016, the investigators obtained information on respiratory symptoms, disease history, the status of domestic pets, and other related risk factors from the recruited children. Demographic information from the children was collected, including gender, age, education of the parents, and income of the family.

Results of the study showed that cat-keeping in a child’s home significantly increases his or her risk for persistent cough (odds ratio [OR], 1.77; 95% CI, 1.03-3.05; P =.04). Poultry-keeping at home increased the risk for current asthma and allergic rhinitis (OR, 3.87; 95% CI, 1.08-13.92; P =.04 and OR, 1.84; 95% CI, 1.01-3.37; P =.05, respectively). Further, sleeping with a pet increases a child’s risk for persistent phlegm, physician-diagnosed asthma, and current asthma (OR, 5.04; 95% CI, 1.05-24.28; P =.04 vs OR, 3.35; 95% CI, 1.31-8.57; P =.01 vs OR, 4.94; 95% CI, 1.05-23.31; P =.04, respectively).

Findings from the current study also showed that children who are exposed to both cat-keeping and molds had higher self-reported rates of physician-diagnosed asthma compared with those who are exposed to either cat-keeping or molds alone.

The researchers concluded that additional studies on the interactions between risk factors for asthma and asthma-associated symptoms are warranted, to help elucidate the development of asthma among children.

Disclosure: None of the study authors has declared affiliations with biotech, pharmaceutical, and/or device companies.  


Zhjang H-L, Wang B-Y, Luo Y, et al.  Association of pet-keeping in home with self-reported asthma and asthma-related symptoms in 11611 school children from China. J Asthma. 2021;58(12):1555-1564. doi:10.1080/02770903.2020.1818772