Many parents are concerned about the impact pets may have on their young children’s health. We all know animals can carry germs around with them – and your beloved family pet is no exception.
It’s been documented that kids under six could face an increased risk of becoming ill from contact with animals, as their immune system hasn’t fully developed yet. Young children have also been found to be more likely to wipe their faces and lick fingers after touching a pet, making it easy to transfer germs from the animal to the child.
However, recent research is now challenging the idea that pets can hinder a child’s wellbeing. In fact, many studies suggest that spending time with animals from a young age – particularly as an infant – could actually benefit a child’s health.
Here are a few reasons why:
1. Strengthened immunity
One study published in the Journal of Pediatrics found that children who grew up around animals were actually less likely to suffer from infectious respiratory illnesses than those who didn’t. Specifically, babies who were exposed to a cat or dog during their first year since birth were less likely to catch colds, experience ear infections and require antibiotics than those who lived pet-free.
2. Lessened sensitivity to animals later in life
Research has found that teenagers who had an indoor cat during their first year from birth were less likely to be allergic to cats at the age of 18. And males who had an indoor dog as infants were half as likely to be allergic to dogs at 18 years, compared to those who didn’t.
3. Reduced risk of asthma
Exposing babies to dogs and farm animals has been found to reduce their risk of asthma, according to a study published in JAMA Pediatrics. The research showed that having contact with dogs during a baby’s first year decreased their risk of developing asthma by 13%, and exposure to farm animals during the same time period decreased their risk by a 52%.
Despite the benefits that exposing your children to animals can have it is always important that they’re fully supervised at all times.