Should You Expose Babies and Toddlers to Pets?


At first, letting your house pet, may it be a dog or a cat, near your child is a bad idea. After all, no matter how loving pets are, they are still host to dander and various kinds of microbes which may make your kid sick. Apart from which, there’s a general negative notion that they are dirty and this is no surprise considering they lie down everywhere and stick their snouts in places we find disgusting.

However, recent studies have suggested that exposing your children to pets at a young age will actually lower their risk of allergies, coughs, and other complications. This seems illogical, but this was conclusion was published in the Pediatrics research journal.

Here are some of its implications:

Sanitized Environments: Not Good for a Child’s Health

Seemingly, keeping everything clean and sanitized is a must, especially if you want your baby to be healthy and allergy-free. However, the study’s results disproved this notion: an overly clean environment isn’t good for your baby. Why?

Despite its findings, the reasons behind this is unclear, although the researchers deduced that exposure to pets’ dander and the microbes they carry will boost the babies’ still developing immune system. Primarily, it will help them boost their resistance to allergens, bacteria, viruses, and other foreign objects.

So basically, if children are exposed to pets at an early age, their immune system is better-prepared, “well-trained”, and ready to fend off microorganisms.

Children who live in pet-free environments have limited ways to build resistance to cold, allergy, and microorganism resistance. This in turn makes them prone to respiratory ailments, allergies, and infections.

Putting It Simply

Think of pets as a poor man’s version of a vaccine. They do not definitively eliminate the chances of colds and allergies, but they can help resist and build up some sort of resistance. The immune system is weak to things it has never been exposed in and strong to those that it has. A good historical example includes American Indians dying of various ailments like smallpox, since European colonizers have brought along the microbes that cause them. Note that the Indians have not built up resistance to these diseases, which is why their population was decimated.

Pets and Antibiotic Use

It is worth noting that antibiotic use in babies who are not exposed to pets is relatively higher that those who are. This is vital, considering that antibiotics encourage the growth of drug-resistant bacteria, even in pets.

Don’t Get a Pet Just Yet

This study was done in rural and suburban areas in Finland, where the grass is greener and the surroundings cleaner. This may not be applicable in urban areas and large cities, especially in places where trash is commonly found lying in the streets, and those that have inhabitants who practice poor sanitation. And yes, if your pet loves jumping and foraging on a dumpster, it’s a bad idea to let them near your baby.

Overall Conclusion

Pets aren’t cold and allergy vaccines, but it’s not a bad idea to introduce them to your kids! Note that you should be able to introduce your pets to your babies beforehand. Do so correctly , and they will protect the baby as if he or she is one of their own.

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