Recently in Mais Saúde we presented a Finnish study showing that adolescents who spent more time outside, and had more contact with nature, suffered from fewer allergies than kids who lived in exclusively urban environments.
Now a more recent Finnish study, published this week, suggests that children who grow up with dogs in their homes suffer from fewer sicknesses in general, and don’t need antibiotics so frequently.
The current study followed 397 children born in suburban or rural Finland between September 2002 and May 2005. During their first year of life, the children’s parents filled out weekly questionnaires asking if the children had been healthy during the previous week. If they had been sick, the parents specified what illness they had, and if they required antibiotic treatment.
The researchers also asked whether dogs or cats lived in the household, and if so, how long the animals spent outside the house each day. To control for other issues, they also asked about factors such as maternal smoking, the number of siblings, whether or not the children were breastfed, among others.
The research showed that children with dogs in the home were healthy about 73% of the time, and those without dogs were healthy 65% of the weeks. Kids with dogs had 44% fewer ear infections, and used antibiotics 29% less often. The researchers also studied cat exposure, which also seemed to help the kids stay healthier, but the protective effect was less pronounced.
Why should dog exposure help kids fight off illnesses? It’s not known for sure, but the best theory is that the children with dogs were exposed to a wider variety of bacteria—and the skin and hair of the pets—which stimulated the children’s immune response to work better and fight off infections.
This study is interesting but it doesn’t mean you should go out and buy a dog to keep your children healthy. For one thing, the bacterial environment in Finland is probably different than most typical urban environments, and some children with a genetic predisposition to develop dog or cat allergies might have more problems with pets in the house.
More studies are needed, and for the time being, you might discuss these issues with your pediatrician or allergist. If you need to find a pediatrician or other specialist, you can use our main site: www.procuramed.com.
Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)