Life-saving pets: Animals that strengthen your immune system
Here's one more reason to get that puppy or kitten you've been wanting: It might help your child grow up with a stronger immune system and fewer chances of developing allergies. Recent studies show that children who grow up with pets in the house have stronger immune systems, resisting colds, flus, and infections more robustly than those who live in pet-free households. Researchers in Finland studied 397 Finnish babies and found that those who lived with a dog or -- to a lesser extent -- a cat spent fewer weeks with ear infections, coughs, or runny noses. They were also less likely to need antibiotics than infants in pet-free homes. The chief researcher, Eija Bergroth of Kuopio University Hospital, hypothesized that dirt and allergens brought in by animals are good for babies' immune systems. Meanwhile, a study in Bristol, England, documented that children who grow up on farms exposed to many types of animals are far less likely to develop allergies than other children.
Takeaway tip: If you have a cat or dog, don't worry that animals "germs" are bad for the baby.