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Living With Pets - Best for Baby’s Immunity System

Updated on February 3, 2014
Living With Pets
Living With Pets

Animal Contact- Best for baby’s immunity

Pets are usually considered to be the right of children. Children enjoy the companionship of pet dogs and cats a lot. In spite of the entertainment they provide to children, they are found to offer several developmental benefits to children. A pet is found to be very beneficial for a child’s physical, social, emotional and cognitive development.

New researches have proved that babies, who live with a dog or at least a cat, spend fewer weeks with ear infections, coughs or runny noses and are also less likely to need antibiotics than infants in pet-free homes. It suggests that contacts with pet animals have a protective effect on respiratory tract infections during the first year of a baby’s life.

During the first year of life, contacts with animals are very important as it leads to a better resistance to infectious respiratory illnesses during childhood. The above mentioned research was conducted at the Kuopio University Hospital in Finland were the parents of 397 infants born at the hospital, were asked to fill out weekly diaries starting when the child was nine weeks old. They were asked to record the information on the babies’ health as well as their contact with any pet animals.

Playing with pets
Playing with pets

Benefits of having pets

Social benefits: Pets can be a wonderful social facilitator for children. Pets can help children make a lot of friends in neighborhood, as they give some practice in social relationship. Pets can also help children notice their surroundings.

Physical benefits: Pets play a vital role in running and practicing motor skills. Spending time along with dogs in a yard is a great way of exercise for children. Engaging children in such things will keep them away from inactive indoor activities. Parental supervision is very necessary for the safety of babies along with pets.

Cognitive benefits: Most children develop an interest for any kind of pet as they grow. Children’s cognitive development can be encouraged by allowing them to read about their favourite book and giving them a chance to talk to a veterinarian. They should also be encouraged to learn about the special characteristics and needs of their pets.

Emotional benefits: A sense of responsibility as well as self-esteem can be developed in children who live along with pets. Pets also help them in building their self confidence as they start giving care to their pets when they grow up.

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Health Benefits:

Based on those diaries and a year end questionnaire, they came to a conclusion that contact with dogs, more than cats, was tied to fewer weeks of sickness for babies. The infants who were in dog-owing families were healthy for 72 and 76 percent when compared to infants with no dog contact who were healthy for about 65 percent only. Moreover babies who were in contact with a dog were also found 44 percent less likely to get inner ear infections and 29 percent less likely to need antibiotics.

The health benefits were found to be greatest in babies whose pets weren’t around as much. Those who had dogs, who spent less than six hours a day inside, had fewer infections than kids who grew up with indoor-only dogs. Thus we can come to a suggestion that when animals are allowed to bring in more dirt and microbes from outdoors, it helps strengthen babies’ immune systems faster.

Although having a pet dog or cat can provide your child with all the benefits mentioned above, it’s not very necessary that you buy a pet for your child if you don’t possess one. Some earlier studies say that it may worsen the symptoms of allergies or asthma in children who live along with pets. The above mentioned study was focused on children living in rural areas of Finland. The microbes brought in by dogs and cats in this area are entirely different from those brought up in urban areas. In such a situation it may harm the infants rather than helping them.

Benefits of having pets
Benefits of having pets

Certain things to be noted while keeping pets along with babies

  • Allow your pet near you baby as long as the pet is well behaved and you are there to supervise it. I.e. the baby and animal should be supervised when together.

  • Keep the pet away from your infant if it shows any aggressive or hostile behaviour toward your infant.

  • Though the immune system of babies is benefited by pets, don’t allow them to lick on your baby’s face or body. It may transfer certain infectious materials to your babies’ eyes or mouth.

  • Everyone in the house should wash their hands, especially during food preparation and after going to the bathroom.

The various developmental benefits, pets offer to babies are mentioned above. Pets at times can also fill the role of a comforter. The special bond that is often developed between a pet and a child can do lots of benefits in the over all development of the child.

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