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Health Benefits of Having a Baby AND a Pet

Posted on August 21, 2012
by Wendy Stackhouse

Stackhouse dogs

This post comes with a disclaimer: I have two dogs and a cat and am definitely an advocate of adopting pets from animal shelters. I also have two children who have had pets throughout their lives, including fish and a lizard (RIP).

At the same time, I understand the difficulty of having a baby and a puppy at the same time and I wouldn’t really wish that on anyone!

We are lucky in my immediate family not to have any allergies or asthma to cause us concern about the triggers that come with furry friends.

But in our extended family we have some highly allergic folks, some who treat their allergies and have pets and some who choose to keep their homes fur-free.

Then again, it might not be luck. A new study reported in the Journal Pediatrics has shown that children who live with a pet during their first year are healthier than those who live in a pet-free zone.

As a mom myself, I know I had a lot of anxiety about what my children were exposed to when they were babies, especially during the (blessedly short-lived) crawling stage, but since we already had pets when they were born, I tried to take the pet-related environmental challenges in stride. Turns out it was probably a good thing I did.

The researchers found 31% fewer respiratory tract infections in kids who had a dog and 44% fewer ear infections, with the additional benefit of a concomitant reduction in the use of antibiotics. With today’s bacteria becoming more and more resistant to antibiotics, the less frequently any of us take these essential medicines, the better off we are.

The benefits were greater for kids who had a dog than those who had a cat, but there were still health benefits for cat-owning families.

There is no doubt that if your child suffers from respiratory challenges like allergies and asthma, a pet can add to his or her problems immeasurably. And it is always a good idea to keep the contaminants that pets add to our indoor air like dander under control. But if your family doesn’t have to worry about triggering allergies or asthma, a pet can actually strengthen their immune systems.

So maybe the fact that my daughter never had an antibiotic until she was 6 and between my two children (now 13 and 11) there has only been one ear infection isn’t due to the fact that we are pet owners, but maybe it is! Another good reason to get out there and adopt a new best friend!

Wendy Stackhouse is the Online Community Manager for AirTek and its parent company Alliance Environmental Group. And, yes, those are her dogs! There is no picture of her cat, who has pledged to someday kill Wendy in her sleep. To stay up to date on indoor air news and information, Like AirTek on Facebook and Follow @AirTekCA on Twitter. We publish our blog every Tuesday and Thursday.

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