According to a Finnish study, babies who have close contact with dogs or cats during their first year of life are less likely to experience respiratory infections such as colds and ear infections, compared to those infants who lived in pet-free homes. those who had little or no contact with dogs or cats.
Researchers from Kuopio University Hospital, Kuopio, Finland followed 397 children from pregnancy to 12 months of age, and they found that children who had contact with dogs in their first year of life had fewer respiratory infections and even required shorter courses of antibiotics when ill than those who had no exposure to dogs. The study found that infants with pet cats seemed to experience the same protective effect as dogs, although not to such a high degree.
The researchers concluded that contact with animals appears to positively impact the immune system in infants, helping it to mature more quickly. However, it should be noted that bringing a dog or other pet into the home of an already asthmatic child should only be done after discussing with a child’s physician.
Source: Journal Pediatrics, July 2012
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