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Having a Pet Can Protect Infants Against Respiratory Illnesses
by Joshua Bryne
Pets are a furry, fun addition to any family. Not only do they bring lots of love into your home, but they just might protect your health, too! For moms and dads welcoming a newborn into their family, dogs and cats may have a positive effect on baby development. According to a new study published in the journal "Pediatrics," babies who live in a household with a fuzzy friend during their first year of life were found to be less susceptible to respiratory illnesses, such as the common cold.
Man's Best Friend Has Biggest Effect of All
Researchers reported that contact with dogs in particular was observed to have a significant protective impact on respiratory infections. Out of approximately 400 children that were born between 2002 and 2005 and were tracked for the study, having a dog correlated with fewer incidents of ear infections or a stuffy nose, and corresponded positively with more healthy weeks overall, compared to babies without a pet. Cat ownership also had a small effect, but one that wasn't nearly as significant as with dogs.
"Children who had dog contacts at home were healthier and had less frequent ear infections and needed fewer courses of antibiotics than children who had no dog contacts," said Eija Bergroth, pediatrician and lead author of the study, according to U.S. News.
The mechanism that allows pets to offer protection against respiratory illness is not clear, but Bergroth believes that one explanation might be that dogs and cats can carry things like dirt and soil, which contain small traces of bacteria, as reported by the news source. This exposure can affect the maturation of the immune system, according to the news source.
Researchers were optimistic about the results and reported that contact with animals early in life may be critical for the development of the immune system.
Respiratory Illnesses are not the Only Health Conditions That Pets Can Protect Against
Childhood exposure to cats and dogs can also lower the likelihood of developing allergies, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. Young boys and girls who live with cats and dogs are believed to have a decreased risk of developing allergic sensitization. This is also seen in adults who owned both kinds of pets.
Do you know any parents who have a newborn and pets? Are their kids generally healthy? Would you consider getting a dog if it might keep your child from developing potential allergies?