Study: Pets May Boost Baby’s Immune System

by in Parenting

A home with pets might be a better idea than one without them especially if you have an infant around. According to a new research conducted in Finland, babies who spend time around pet dogs, have less ear infections and respiratory track ailments as compared to those without pets.

The study was published in the US journal Pediatrics where researchers have pointed out that a pet dog that spends at least some time outdoors may help boost a baby’s immune system in the first year.

The researchers also observed that cats as pets could also help boost the immune system of babies though the affect was less than that of dogs.

For the study the team asked parents of 397 children to make diary entries each week recording the child’s health for a year. The infants were from nine weeks to 52 weeks of age.

They found that babies who had a pet at home were 30 percent less likely to have respiratory problems like cough, cold, wheezing, fever etc. and 50 percent less likely to have ear infections than those without pets.

“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.

They observed that the most protection was when the dogs were with the kids at home for at least six hours rather than those that was mostly outside.

“We offer preliminary evidence that dog ownership may be protective against respiratory tract infections during the first year of life,” said the study. “We speculate that animal contacts could help to mature the immunologic system, leading to more composed immunologic response and shorter duration of infections.”

When the researchers looked at other factors that could lead to infections like not having been breastfed, attending daycare, being raised by smokers or parents with asthma, or having older siblings in the household, even then having a pet ensured the babies were less likely to get infected.

The study added that babies who were living with a pet also needed less antibiotic courses than those who did not have any pets.

Previously a number of studies have looked into the pet and child interaction with some proving that pets help develop the immune system of the infant while others not finding any benefit with the interaction.

The current study though only looked at the first year of a baby’s life and the affect of having pets around. The findings however do not reveal the reason for the reduced infection in babies around pets.


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About the Author

Atula is a writer, traveler and a nature-lover. She is also mom to a boy who seems to have inherited all her creative genes. When Atula is not busy making up stories with her son, she writes for numerous magazines, websites and blogs. She is also working on her site on endangered species called

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