You’ve heard the expression lots of times – a dog is a man’s best friend.
But if you have young children or grandchildren in your home, a dog or cat may be their best friends, too.
Especially when it comes to helping the kids you love avoid asthma.
A big new study out of Sweden tracked more than a million kids over the space of a decade, and found that those who grew up in an environment with animals were far less apt to become asthmatic.
Exposure to animals reduces asthma risk
Kids raised in homes with dogs, for example, were 13 percent less likely to develop asthma by their sixth birthdays.
And farm kids had a 50 percent lower risk than those who grew up in cities or suburbs.
It’s all because of something that scientists have long called the “hygiene hypothesis.” Only it appears to be more than just a hypothesis.
Its basic premise is that kids kept in a super-clean environment – which usually means an animal-free home — are more likely to develop asthma.
Germs strengthen the immune system
But giving them a certain amount of exposure to germs helps their immune system to identify which pathogens are harmful without mounting the kind of auto-immune responses that results in asthma and allergies.
The best way to do that, according to experts, is to allow them to grow up around a dog or cat.
And this newest study isn’t the first to come to that conclusion.
Research that appeared in 2011 in the New England Journal of Medicine found that kids on farms in central Europe had less asthma and eczema. Another study done on mice revealed that those exposed to dust from homes with dogs had higher amounts of a kind of good bacteria that helped prevent asthma.
Adopt a pet for a healthier kid
Hopefully, such findings will encourage expectant parents not to give up the pup or kitty they might already have, or even to adopt a new one.
Sadly, one of the top reasons pets are surrendered to animal shelters is because of a new baby.
But all this good “hygiene” news shows how man’s best friend (or even a kitty) can protect your child in more ways than one.
Jenny Thompson is the Director of the Health Sciences Institute and editor of the HSI e-Alert. Through HSI, she and her team uncover important health information and expose ridiculous health misinformation, most notably through the HSI e-Alert.
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