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Pets may make children healthier
July 9th, 2012
12:01 AM ET

Pets may make children healthier

Children who are born to a family with furry pets seem more able to ward off certain illnesses.

A recent study out of Finland finds babies who have a cat or dog around during their first year have fewer health problems than little ones who don't have pets.

The study, published in next month's issue of Pediatrics, followed 397 children from before birth to age 1, and noted the number of times they had contact with either a dog or cat each week.

Although it's a pretty common thing to see newborns with minor respiratory issues and ear infections, researchers found those babies who had more interaction with animals seemed to have fewer of these problems and needed less medication, even when they were sick.

Even though babies living with cats were still protected, their protection was not as strong as those babies who lived around dogs. And kids living in homes in which dogs went in and out of the house more often seemed to have the lowest risk of infections.

Although doctors acknowledge more research is needed, they say there's something about animals that affect an infant's immune system which can protect against certain childhood infections.

The people who had dogs that were mostly kept inside appeared to have less protection from the illnesses, said Dr. Eija Bergroth, a pediatrician at the Kuopio University Hospital in Kuopio, Finland and one of the study's authors. “So, we speculated that the more the dog is outside, the more dirt (and microbes) it might bring inside.”

And what does dirt have to do with keeping an infant healthy?

“The microbes in the dirt might somehow stimulate the child's immune system and the immunologic responses to respiratory viruses and bacteria later could then be more composed," said Bergroth. “Or it might be something to do with the dog itself as an animal, like dander, but this also unsure."

The researchers were not able to objectively analyze whether inner city children had different results than kids from rural and suburban areas. Since living environment can impact microbes in the dirt, children in different conditions might show different effects.

According to the authors, the children in the study are being followed as a part of a larger study mainly concentrating on allergies. So, there may be a possibility, they said to analyze the effect on respiratory infections later, as the children grow older.


soundoff (41 Responses)
  1. t3chsupport

    Too many people now think that the best way to make sure their baby doesn't get sick is to purify the air and smear them with Purell anytime they get near anything. All that does is make sure your baby will get sick from more stuff later when they aren't being smeared with alcohol. An immune system isn't something that's just given and then stays as it is, and it's not something you can just expect them to get one day. Like everything in your body, it's something that has to exercise to be able to function correctly when it comes time for the need to use it. Giving it little challenges here and there, like fighting a mild cold, dealing with a reasonable amount of pet dander, or dealing with outdoor microbes that live in the dirt (which your child will almost certainly play with some day, and possibly even eat.)

    Yes, kids get sick. If they didn't get sick, they'd just up and die when they get a bug. Getting sick is not the result of the microbe/virus/whatever, it's the result of the body fighting it by disrupting the delicate homeostasis that these things need to be able to replicate (or occasionally going into a reaction when killing the bug triggers yet another immune system response).

    You can let your kids play with critters and get dirty, just use common sense about it.

    July 9, 2012 at 11:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. ghj

    Maybe they're healthier because the door keeps opening and closing letting in fresh air?

    July 9, 2012 at 11:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. LinSea

    Makes sense. The immune system needs its version of working its muscles. How is it ever going to build up any strength if it never has to exert itself?

    July 9, 2012 at 13:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. xfiler93

    been proven pets make everyone healthier, especially kids.

    July 9, 2012 at 13:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Eric Mawuko

    In fact, this research makes a lot of sense. Parents must allow their kids at the age to play with the pets mentioned in the reseach above. Good one there and congrats!!!

    July 9, 2012 at 14:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Bubba

    Sure, pets can make children healthier. Lots of protien. Just make sure that you cook them long enough.

    July 9, 2012 at 14:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • John

      Bubba,
      Very narrow minded, all you think is food, you don't like animals, do you? You don't know how much you are missing!

      July 9, 2012 at 17:52 | Report abuse |
  7. Wow

    And they are just now posting this as news why?

    July 9, 2012 at 14:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Cherries

      Because we've forgotten how the most basic, simple of things are usually the best.

      July 9, 2012 at 16:26 | Report abuse |
    • Lester

      CNN is infatuated with dogs. There's at least one dog article a week, from "dog saves owners life" to "dog mourns hero soldier at funeral."

      July 9, 2012 at 16:40 | Report abuse |
  8. nh guy

    with a name like bubba, i'd bet there isn't much you haven't eaten and probably look it, too.

    July 9, 2012 at 14:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rene

      RE: stimulus=higher reuevne=lower debt. Then why does the national debt always go up?Borrowed money is neither an asset or a sustainable net increase in productive capacity, i.e. wealth. As soon as the stimulus disappears, the effect is gone. In our current economy there is no multiplier effect because the net productivity of new debt is negative. Until you understand that you will continue to be nothing more than a useful idiot of TPTB. Despite your glorious proclamations we are more broke now than we were a year ago. This is one reason why home sales, especially at the lower end where they are dependent on net spendable income, not wealth, have fallen to 15 year lows. It is also why sales and prices will continue to fall for years to come. Let me repeat- new debt costs more than it can produce and as such is nothing but a drain on the economy. We are long past the point where we can stimulate with outside debt. Our savings or wealth is rapidly declining along with the home values that store much of it. When the equities market finally gives it up that will be another nail in the coffin. Get ready for it.

      September 14, 2012 at 01:31 | Report abuse |
  9. clevercandi

    The only illness I had when I was a kid was chicken pox. We never owned any animals and I still don't own one.

    July 9, 2012 at 14:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Joe

      So you are saying you NEVER got sick except for the chicken pox? I find that extremely hard to believe.

      July 9, 2012 at 15:39 | Report abuse |
    • clevercandi

      Believe it or not, Joe; I received "perfect attendance" awards every school year except for 1st grade. I missed two weeks of school because of the chicken pox.

      In fact, I have lost sick days at every job I ever had because you can only accrue so many and I never use them. :)

      July 10, 2012 at 07:51 | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      Well, guess we can close this study down as false then. We have all the scientific evidence we could ever need right here.

      July 11, 2012 at 23:50 | Report abuse |
  10. al

    http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2012/07/02/weird-science-kitty-litter-increases-risk-of-suicide/?hpt=he_t4

    I love CNN. They just constantly churn crap and contradictory articles. I saw ignore all these news agencies and live your life.

    July 9, 2012 at 14:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Phil

      You can find a study to support or refute pretty much any type of "randomized research" like these things.

      Also, these are both "blogs" so there is someone surfing the net for things and sort of reposting stuff for a quicker read through. The author would only be considered a journalist in the loosest sense of the word.

      July 9, 2012 at 16:11 | Report abuse |
  11. Lester

    There are 700 million dogs in the US and only 350 million people. We need to curtail the dog population and put an end to all the fecal matter on the streets and getting into the water supply. There is no reason for dogs to exist.

    July 9, 2012 at 16:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bob

      There is no need for anyone named "Lester" to exist.

      July 9, 2012 at 18:28 | Report abuse |
    • Lydia

      Dogs and humans coevolved. There are no human populations on earth that don't have dogs as an intgral part of their culture. Maybe, lester, there IS a reason... I think that we shouldn't breed dogs for profit until all existing dogs are cared for.

      July 10, 2012 at 03:00 | Report abuse |
    • Nicole

      Try a little less than 80 million, so about 1 dog per 4 people, a pretty reasonable number.

      July 10, 2012 at 04:58 | Report abuse |
  12. jules

    Isn't is possible/likely that families with a history of allergies and other respiratory illnesses don't have pets? Correlation isn't causation.

    July 9, 2012 at 16:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Flawed Reasoning

    There is a logical flaw in assuming causation. The pets may not necessarily be making the children healthier. For instance, the houses without pets may be pet-less for a reason, like the parents are allergic or have some other health issue that may be affecting their child’s immune development.

    July 9, 2012 at 17:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Marc

      If I were to go back to China you know what my real reason would be? puimkn yummy yum yum, good bubble tea, and juice lady! and fried banana and condensed milk. and random instrument sellers on the corner. oh yeah. and you.

      September 11, 2012 at 17:57 | Report abuse |
  14. Kippy

    No, No!! Do not bring that filthy animal into this vegan household!! How will little Kippy III learn his piano lessons and Latin with some animal scraping around him. He'll never get into an Ivy League school if he has a sniffle!!

    July 9, 2012 at 17:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. far125

    what date was this article posted?

    July 9, 2012 at 19:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bachoura

      RE: Coming from the other side of it, It's always abllsuteoy baffled me why people consider their income to be something so deeply personal that it's unforgivably rude to ask about it. I've seen people who are willing to divulge intimate details about their sexual fetishes or health problems who blanch at the thought of putting their income range on an anonymous survey. What's the deal? Can anyone explain this to me? Please, I am genuinely puzzled. Maybe it's just a generational divide.By the by, as people seem to be having difficulty with this whole incomes thing, lemmie help you out a bit. The median household income in King County is $53k year at last I checked.The per capita is $29k.According to wikipedia, for the city of Everett, the median household income is about $40k and the per capita is about $20k.From my admittedly rough calculations that means the 50th percentile of incomes in Everett can afford approximately a maximum of about $200k on a mortgage at todays interest rates. Once again, rough calculations. So you may want to readjust your thinking on what is affordable . You could assert that the 50th percentile has no business owning a home and should rent, as I have seen it not stated but implied on these forums before. In that case, we could bump it up to the 60th or 70th percentile and say that the prices are bang on, but that creates a simple supply and demand problem. If you are arbitrarily reducing the percentage of the population that should be able to afford a home, to say 30% to pick a random percentage, you had better make sure that there are only homes available for 30% of the population and a hell of alot of rental space. Otherwise supply exceeds demand and prices will have to come down. I think it's important that people get over their (baffling, to me) squeamishness about incomes and start really looking at what kind of money people make around here. Presuming everyone is about like me is foolish.

      September 13, 2012 at 23:32 | Report abuse |
  16. Jean Logan

    The pet, most often a dog, ends up sleeping with the child, giving them a feeling of love and protection from imaginary dangers. The feeling of security and love enhances the immune system. In the opposite siutation, if a child is alone and fears being alone, the immune system is impared. When a person is in fear, there is no immune system.

    July 9, 2012 at 22:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. leila

    There may be a couple of things helping the kids with pets. Having a pet, a child may get exposed to more fresh air either from walking the pets (dogs) or just by having the doors open and close more often in their homes. They will also get exposed to more germs which triggers their immune system. Also, the calming effect of interaction with a pet, soothes nervous system of a child ie less stressful, happier child with a healthier immune system...a pet is therapeutic for people of all ages, not only children.

    July 10, 2012 at 01:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Nicole

    The research, as a whole. is pretty much showing dirt and run of the mill germs are good for a child's immune system. Of course not ALL bacteria are good, but there's plenty of reasons to let babies and kids get dirty.

    I love how the comment section is all about fresh air and stress, rather than considering that people's immune systems evolved for a dirty world, and when you make it too clean the immune system has trouble developing appropriate responses.

    July 10, 2012 at 05:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Kate

    Our pets are so great for us- its awesome to hear even more positive benefits from pet ownership! Apparently, beyond keeping our children healthy, pet ownership has actually been shown to increase overall quality of life for people of all ages. http://www.naturalstandard.com/news/news201107015.asp

    July 12, 2012 at 09:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Leprakawn

    Seems that CNN is posting a common sense article here. Unfortunately there must not have been anything else worthy of reporting at 0001, 09 JUL 12.

    July 17, 2012 at 17:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. C R Feldmeier

    I'm looking for the autism application for $199.00 that can be downloaded on an ipad. I think the author called it Shout Out Loud For Autism. I have a 7 year old grandson who is nonverbal and cannot communicate with his parents. This program sounds ideal for his situation. Please let me know....I do not remember the author's name but CNN is where we heard about this.
    Thank You....it could make all the difference.

    July 28, 2012 at 13:52 | Report abuse | Reply
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    July 31, 2012 at 20:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Anderson

    OK, now it's foreclosures or Real Estate Owned Properties. These prireptoes are controlled by lenders. These prireptoes don't owe mortgage payments. The money is already invested. In most cases the loans were bought sold and traded over the years at discounts in the range of twenty per cent, by now maybe more.Clearly a buyer of a Note secured by a Deed of Trust will pay no more than eighty per cent of face value.The investor who sold the Note reinvested the money to make more money. These housing units are now inventory that can be absorbed different ways; lease, rent, sold on contract, borrowed against, held as assets, sold to people who are hyped about buying foreclosures.These prireptoes are just slowing the market from correction. It's a sad shadow land of those same people who bought at the top or borrowed more than the property was worth.The only way to factor an absorbtion rate is by comparing fair market value with the consumers ability to purchase.Adding more over priced inventory won't increase the consumers ability to buy. Even if a buyer could buy why would they when a pricing correction is under way? The supply and demand theory, or absorbtion, isn't a part of this equation.

    September 14, 2012 at 01:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. MikeEmSea

    A research focused on older kids would be interesting, too.
    When I was a kid, a friend of mine had a rather crazy mother. She was afraid of exposing him to any animals, dirt(he was forced to wash his hands twenty times a day), etc. And the result? He´s been suffering from various allergies for years. But it´s not only about getting the right dog for your child. In my opinion, it is above all about not isolating the children from seemingly harmful things, like the already mentioned dirt. Of course, the happy medium is the best thing to do.

    September 20, 2012 at 16:29 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.