How Pets Can Help Your Newborn

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Expecting an addition to the family? If there's already a dog or cat in the house, here's good news. Having a pet in the house does more for a family than provide a cuddle buddy and walking companion. A study published recently in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found that when moms were exposed to pets while pregnant, their kids were less likely to have asthma and allergies. If your pet is the one with allergies, check out these Surprising New Allergy Solutions for Pets.

Researchers followed 1,187 newborns over a two-year period. They then analyzed blood samples from the children taken at birth, 6 months, 1 year, and 2 years. Babies born into families with indoor pets had 28 percent lower levels of IgE (a.k.a. immunoglobulin E), an antibody linked to the development of allergies and asthma.

Christine Cole Johnson, PhD, MPH, chair of Henry Ford's department of public health sciences and senior author of the study, says, "We believe having a broad, diverse exposure to a wide array of microbacteria at home and during the birthing process influences the development of a child's immune system." In other words, exposure to a variety of ordinary germs, such as those from pets, early on seems to boost a child's immune system and lower his or her risk of asthma and allergies.

You don't have to be a newborn to get some of the other health benefits from living with a pet. Check out these seven more benefits pets bring their humans.

--By Brittan Linn, Rodale

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