I’ve always thought a person could be too fastidious and now along comes evidence that supports that idea. A new Finnish study, reported in the journal Pediatrics, says that babies whose families have dogs and cats are healthier that those who don’t. (Read the study here.)
tracked 397 babies from nine weeks until they were a year old. The parents of the subjects filled out a questionnaire weekly to report on their infants’ health, noting runny noses, coughs, and those sorts of symptoms and whether antibiotics were given. The study concluded that babies with dogs at home were healthier, having fewer respiratory tract symptoms and ear infections and requiring fewer rounds of antibiotics than children without dog contact.
In an interesting twist, the healthiest infants had dogs that were
outdoors more, maybe because the dog that stays out longer brings in
more dirt and microorganisms and exposes the baby’s system to a greater
variety. The child’s defenses are snapped into high gear.
“Cat ownership,” the study reported, “seemed to also have an
overall protective effect, although weaker than dog ownership, on the
infectious health of infants.”
The authors of the study “speculate that animal contacts could help to
mature the immunologic system, leading to more composed immunologic
response and shorter duration of infections.”
The Finnish study is good news for expectant parents who have
pets and gives a green light to those with infants who are considering
adopting a pet.