Having a pet dog at home may help prevent babies from developing an allergy to eggs, according to new research.
An Australian study of more than 5000 babies found that 10.2 per cent of babies in homes without a dog had egg allergies compared with just 5.9 per cent of babies living in a house with a dog.
The protective effect of having a dog inside the house on egg allergy, was also evident among those without a family history of allergic disease, researchers from the Murdoch Children's Research Institute, Melbourne said.
Having siblings, especially young ones, also lowered the risk of egg allergies, according to the research published online in the journal Allergy.
In the study, 10.8 per cent of babies without siblings were allergic to egg, but as the number of siblings increased, the incidence of egg allergy was found to decrease. Just 3.7 per cent of babies with three or more siblings were allergic to egg by the age of one.
Dr Jennifer Koplin who led the research said the findings appeared to support the "hygiene hypothesis", which proposes that exposure to germs in early childhood is needed to prime the immune system to work effectively. However, she also added that genetic factors are likely to be involved in the development of allergies.
She said: "Our study showed exposure in the first year of life to siblings and dogs may decrease the risk of subsequent egg allergy.
"This could be due to the fact contact with young siblings and pets may have a protective effect by exposing children to infections and germs."