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Keywords:

  • pet keeping;
  • allergy;
  • asthma;
  • children;
  • Bulgaria

The role of pet exposure in early childhood for allergy/ asthma later in life is still controversial. Recently it was shown that ‘avoidance behaviour’ is an important factor for the pet distribution in the population. The aim of the present work is to study the association between self-reported pet keeping at home and symptoms in airways, nose and skin among children 2–7 years of age, in a country where primary prevention strategies regarding allergies are not common. A cross-sectional survey on the association between allergy and asthma symptoms and home enviromental factors was conducted in two towns in Bulgaria in spring 2004 (the ALLHOME-1 study). Data for 4479 out of 12982 children was obtained. 21.3% of the parents reported having pets at the time of the questionnaire, and 23.3% for pet keeping at index child's birth. Parents of 3.3% of the children got rid of some of the pets and 10.6% refrained from having pets, due in both cases to allergic illness in the family. Keeping dogs or cats at the time of the survey or during the child's first years was associated with most of the symptoms (aOR 1.1–2.2).