Do Pets Make Babies Healthier?

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Many new parents worry that their pet cat or dog will undermine their baby's health. In fact, it is not uncommon to find unwanted animals at the shelter whose paperwork lists "new baby" as the reason for the surrender. However, new parents should think twice, as a recent study shows that infants in homes with dogs and cats are sick less frequently than their pet-free counterparts.

RELATED: 6 Health Benefits of Having a Pet

The study, published in the medical journal, Pediatrics, reveals that young babes co-habitating with a family cat or dog succumbed to fewer runny noses, coughs and ear infections. For example, youngsters in a home with a pet dog were 44% less likely to have developed an ear infection and 29% less liklely to have used an antibiotic during their first year.

RELATED: Eating Dirt, Embracing Germs

It is interesting to note that the positive effect was more pronounced with dogs than cats - and more pronounced when the pet spent less than 6 hours per day in the house.

One conclusion that has been drawn is the counterintuitive notion that an overly clean environment may not be ideal for babies with developing immune systems. A child's immune system needs to be challenged to develop. Pets inevitably introduce more bacteria, yeast and other microscopic critters into a child's environment - and that may actually do a baby's body good!

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