Babies With Pets in Home Healthier

Babies who grow up with dogs and cats in the home are healthier, a new study finds.

Overall, babies in homes with cats or dogs were about 30 percent less likely to have respiratory infectious symptoms -- which included cough, wheezing, rhinitis (stuffy or runny nose) and fever -- and about half as likely to get ear infections, research shows (AFP Photo/Robyn Beck)

 

Babies who grow up with dogs and cats in the home are healthier, a new study finds.

AFP (“Dogs may protect babies from some infections: study“):

Babies who spend time around pet dogs have fewer ear infections and respiratory ailments than those whose homes are animal-free, said a study released on Monday.

The study, published in the US journal Pediatrics, did not say why but suggested that being around a dog that spends at least part of its day outdoors may boost a child’s immune system in the first year of life.

Cats, too, seemed to convey some protection to babies, though the effect observed was weaker than with dogs.

The research was based on 397 children in Finland whose parents made diary entries each week recording the state of their child’s health during the infant’s first year, from nine weeks to 52 weeks of age.

Overall, babies in homes with cats or dogs were about 30 percent less likely to have respiratory infectious symptoms — which included cough, wheezing, rhinitis (stuffy or runny nose) and fever — and about half as likely to get ear infections.

“If children had dog or cat contacts at home, they were significantly healthier during the study period,” said the study led by experts at Kuopio University Hospital in Finland.

The most protective association was seen in children who had a dog inside at home for up to six hours a day, compared to children who did not have any dogs or who had dogs that were always outside.

This stands to reason. There’s mounting evidence that today’s kids, who lead much more sheltered and antiseptic lives than those who came up even a generation ago, are less healthy. Early exposure to germs and allergens, in moderation, is a good thing.

FILED UNDER: Health, Parenting, Quick Takes,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    This stands to reason. There’s mounting evidence that today’s kids, who lead much more sheltered and antiseptic lives than those who came up even a generation ago, are less healthy. Early exposure to germs and allergens, in moderation, is a good thing.

    Immune systems need a kick-start.

  2. DRS says:

    And pictures of babies with puppies are so cute.

  3. Gromitt Gunn says:

    Indeed, it is unsurprising, but nice to see it confirmed.

  4. It’s kind of interesting that this kind of microbiology impacts our old ides of space travel. We used to think we just needed ourselves (frozen embryos?) and food (food pills?) to survive for generations. Now we realize that we don’t know how big a biome we really need to carry along with us.

  5. Fiona says:

    I’m not surprised. We’ve become so germaphobic in recent years that it’s backfired. Life isn’t lived in a bubble and reasonable exposure to what’s out there makes us better able to survive.

  6. Franklin says:

    Cats, too, seemed to convey some protection to babies, though the effect observed was weaker than with dogs.

    I wonder if this has to do with the fact that many cats are indoor cats. I’m too lazy to check the study to see if they compared indoor vs. outdoor cats.

    Useless anecdote to follow:

    In any case, we had two (indoor) cats when my first kid was born and he still ended up with nut allergies, ear infections, rhinitis and pretty much everything listed above. With my second kid, I intentionally exposed him to the neighbors’ dogs and their saliva … and he’s not allergic to anything (that we are aware of).

  7. John Burgess says:

    We had a dog when I was little. We had to get rid of it when my younger brother was born and turned out to be allergic to nearly everything, including the dog. Then–and occasionally since–I thought this a very bad exchange.

    At least I got a two-year dose of dog germs to get me going. I wonder how much those visits, as an older kid, to the farm and farm animals did for me?

  8. al-Ameda says:

    Pit Bulls notwithstanding ….

  9. matt says:

    @al-Ameda: One of the most loyal and sweet dogs you could ever get..

  10. I wonder if this has to do with the fact that many cats are indoor cats. I’m too lazy to check the study to see if they compared indoor vs. outdoor cats.

    Useless anecdote to follow