Furry Friends and Farm Animals Improve Kids' Health

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dog via shutterstock
girl with dog via shutterstock

Good news for those who are raising both kids and animals.

A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics suggests that early exposure to dogs or farm animals may lead to a reduced risk of childhood asthma. These findings are interrelated to the hygiene hypothesis, which claims exposure to bacteria early in life can build up a better immune system.

Dr. Tov Fall, and colleagues from Uppsala University in Sweden, led a nationwide study that focused on the association between asthma and animal exposure, which included an immense sample size of more than a million child subjects born between 2001 and 2010.

In the first year of life, school-aged children that were exposed to farm animals showed a 52 percent reduction in asthma. As for preschool-age children, a 13 percent reduction was seen in those exposed to dogs.

The team examined approximately 377,000 preschool-age children and 276,000 school-age children, about 5 percent and 4.2. percent, respectively, had experienced an asthmatic occurrence. The data was obtained from the National Patient Register, as well as records of prescribed asthma medication dispensed at Swedish pharmacies.

The reasoning for the reduction of asthma risk, due to early animal contact, is not quite clear. Dr. Fall stated that it might be due to a single aspect, or a combination of factors. The most consequential circumstances are related to pet ownership, lifestyle or dog-owning attitudes, as well as children being exposed to pet dandruff, household dirt, physical activity, or just spending more time outdoors.