Cough and Cold: Pet Contact Reduces Incidence of Respiratory Tract Illness

Published Online: Friday, August 17, 2012
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The latest research on cough and cold finds that pertussis cases are dangerously high in many states, pets might confer an immunity boost, and parenthood protects individuals from the common cold.

Babies who spend time around a cat or dog suffer from fewer ear infections and respiratory ailments than those whose homes are animal-free, according to research recently published in the journal Pediatrics. This new research shows that exposure to a dog or a cat may boost a child’s immune system in the first year of life.

Researchers from Finland analyzed 397 children whose parents made diary entries each week recording the state of their child’s health from 9 to 52 weeks of age. Researchers also looked at responses to a questionnaire completed at 1 year of age.

Based on the results of a multivariate analysis, children having a dog or cat at home were found to be healthier. They were about 30% less likely to have respiratory symptoms such as coughing, wheezing, rhinitis, and fever. It was also determined that these children were nearly half as likely to get ear infections and tended to need fewer courses of antibiotics.

Cat ownership had a weaker overall protective effect than dog ownership. Researchers also noticed that children at the lowest risk of infectious symptoms and respiratory tract infections were in households where dogs spent less than 6 hours inside, a phenomenon that researchers hypothesized was due to bacterial diversity brought into the home by the dog.


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