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Posted on 10-25-2013

DOGS AND CATS: HOW THEY EFFECT YOUR CHILD'S HEALTH DURING YEAR 1

Good morning!

This research from the Journal of Pediatrics from August 2012 is interesting for all you dog/cat lovers out there.

KEY POINTS FROM THIS ARTICLE:

1) This is the first study that has evaluated the significance of pet contacts during childhood for the development of respiratory tract infections. The object of this study was to investigate the effect of dog and cat contacts on the frequency of respiratory symptoms and infections during the first year of life. This study is a prospective cohort study of 397 children on respiratory tract infections and animal exposures during the first year of life.

2) Assessed co-variables included birth month, birth weight, number of older siblings, maternal smoking, parental atopy (asthma, allergic eczema, or rhinitis), paternal educational levels, and breast-feeding status.

3) Viral respiratory infections are frequent, occurring between 3 and 6 episodes during the first of year life.

4) Children having dogs at home were healthier (had fewer respiratory tract symptoms or infections) than children with no dog contacts, by 31%.

5) Children having dog contacts at home had less frequent otitis [by 44%] and tended to need fewer courses of antibiotics [by 29%] than children without such contacts.

6) Both the weekly amount of contact with dogs and cats and the average yearly amount of contact were associated with decreased respiratory infectious.

7) “Dog contacts may have a protective effect on respiratory tract infections during the first year of life.”

8) “During the first year of life, animal contacts are important, possibly leading to better resistance to infectious respiratory illnesses during childhood.”

9)  Breast-feeding reduces the risk of infant respiratory infections.

10)  Parent smoking increases the risk of infant respiratory infections.

11)  “If children had dog or cat contacts at home, they were significantly healthier during the study period.” These children “had fewer weeks with cough, otitis, and rhinitis and also needed fewer courses of antibiotics than children with no cat or dog contacts at all.”

12) “After adjusting for possible confounders, children having a dog at home were significantly healthier, had less frequent otitis, and tended to need fewer courses of antibiotics during the study period than children without dog contacts.”

13) “The highest protective association between dog ownership and healthiness, as well as lower risk for antibiotic use, otitis and rhinitis was detected among children who had a dog inside at home for 6 hours daily.”

14) Children living in houses in which dogs spend only part of the day inside had the lowest risk of respiratory tract infections. “The amount of dirt brought inside the home by dogs could be higher in these families because they spent more time outdoors. In other words, less dirt is brought indoors by dogs who mainly live indoors.” “The amount of dirt is likely to correlate with bacterial diversity in the living environment, possibly affecting the maturation of the child’s immune system and further affecting the risk of respiratory tract infections.”

15) “Dog and cat contacts during early infancy may be associated with less morbidity in general (indicated as more healthy weeks) and concomitantly may have a protective effect on respiratory tract symptoms and infections.”

16) Dog contacts showed a more significant protective role on respiratory infectious disease morbidity than did cat contact. Cat ownership had an overall protective effect, although weaker than dog ownership, on the infectious health of infants.

17) Other studies have shown that cat and/or dog ownership is associated with a reduced risk of gastroenteritis, indicating a “real relationship exists between animal contacts and the frequency of infections among children.”

18) “Evidence suggests that animal contacts, especially during early life, might be crucial in immunity developing along a nonallergic route and in ensuring effective responses to respiratory viral infections in early life.”

19) “Animal contacts could help to mature the immunologic system, leading to more composed immunologic responses and shorter duration of infections.”

WHAT YOU SHOULD TAKE AWAY FROM THIS:

Muscles become stronger with exercise. Similarly, the immune system becomes stronger when it is exposed to a variety of pathogens. Importantly, when the immune system is exposed to an increased number and variety of pathogens early in life, it is stronger for the rest of that person’s life. Pets, especially dogs, and especially dogs that frequently go outside and then come inside (bringing in an increased number and variety of pathogens), improve the function of children’s immune system, reducing the incidence of respiratory and other infections.

These concepts are reviewed in a book I recommend to my pregnant patients titled: Why Dirt is Good
By immunologist Mary Ruebush, 2008.  If interested you can purchase on Amazon by clicking HERE.  To make an appointment to see how you can truly allow your family to be healthy without medications you can make an appointment on the web with WellnessOne by clicking HERE!

It's your future…be there healthy with WellnessOne!  Have a blessed weekend!

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