(NaturalNews) Children who grow up in families that include a dog, or to a lesser extent a cat, are less likely to suffer infections, allergies, asthma, and other common childhood ailments, according to a new study. Published in the journal Pediatrics, the new research highlights the importance of early exposure among children to germs, dirt, and other forms of "uncleanliness" for the purpose of building strong immunity.
For their study, researchers from Kuopio University Hospital in Finland evaluated nearly 400 infants born at the hospital between September 2002 and May 2005. The team asked parents of these children to fill out questionnaires about their children's health from the time these children were born until they reached their first birthdays.
The questionnaire, which was structured more in the form of a daily diary, kept tracks of the number of infections the children developed, as well as how often they experienced things like fevers, runny noses, coughs, and wheezing. The frequency of these and other conditions was then analyzed in light of whether or not the children had a dog or cat living at home with them.
Family pets make healthier children
Overall, 35 percent of the children evaluated spent a majority of their first year of life in regular contact with a pet dog, while 24 percent lived in direct contact with a cat. Compared to children who lived with no pets at home, those who lived with a dog were more than 31 percent healthier during any given week than those who did not live with a dog, based on the parents' diary reports.
Children living in families with dogs were also 44 percent less likely to develop inner ear infections, and 29 percent less likely to need antibiotic drugs, than children living in families without dogs. Children living with dogs, in fact, were the least likely of all children, including those living with cats, to develop any sickness at all, and were the healthiest among all the children.
"These results suggest that dog contacts may have a protective effect on respiratory tract infections during the first year of life," wrote lead author Eija Bergroth of Kuopio University Hospital, concerning her and her team's findings. "Our findings support the theory that during the first year of life, animal contacts are important, possibly leading to better resistance to infectious respiratory illnesses during childhood."
A 2011 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) uncovered similar findings among children living on farms. It appears as though children exposed to a variety of unique germs and microbes in the family-farm environment develop stronger immunity, and are thus far healthier, than children living in more "sanitary," urban environments. (http://www.naturalnews.com/031615_asthma_farms.html)