Dogs teach children about unconditional love and loyalty, but a new study reveals that they may give them much more than that: better health.
A Swedish study, led by Dr Tove Fall from Uppsala University in Sweden, analysed data on over 1 million Swedish children born between the years of 2001 and 2010. It was found that exposure to dogs (having a parent who was a registered dog owner) within their first year of life lowered their likelihood of childhood asthma by 15 per cent, Belfast Telegraph reports.
“Earlier studies have shown that growing up on a farm reduces a child’s risk of asthma to about half”, Dr Fall revealed. “We wanted to see if this relationship also was true for children growing up with dogs in their homes”.
“Our results confirmed the farming effect, and we also saw that children who grew up with dogs had about 15% less asthma than children without dogs.
“Because we had access to such a large and detailed data set, we could account for confounding factors such as asthma in parents, area of residence and socio-economic status”.
The findings, which were published on Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, claim that the information could be helpful to parents and physicians on the “appropriateness and timing of early animal exposure“. The study lends support to the “hygiene hypothesis” and indicates that lack of exposure to germs and parasites from an early age could lead to an underdeveloped immune system, which can lead to allergy conditions.
According to the BBC, co-author of the study Professor Catarina Almqvist Malmros from Sweden’s Karolinska Institute said, “We know that children with established allergy to cats or dogs should avoid them. But our results also show that children who grow up with dogs have reduced risks of asthma later in life”.
We knew dogs were good for our emotional well-being, but it’s pretty cool to know they can protect our children from health problems too.