I believe all children should have pets, in particular dogs. I grew up with a dog and a cat. They were my best friends. When social experiences at school were challenging, I always had a furry face to console and give unconditional love at home. When I left for college, my cat rejected me. My dog loved me until the day he passed. I am a dog person.
Even though the social and emotional reasons are enough for children to grow up with a dog, there is medicial evidence that pets and farm animals support respiratory health. Time reports on a very large study published on November 2, 2015:
In the study, published Monday in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, researchers looked at over 376,600 preschool age and over 276,200 school age students and found a possible benefit to being around animals early on.
Exposure to dogs (having a parent who was a registered dog owner) during the first year of life was linked to a 13% lower risk of asthma in school age children, and farm animal exposure was linked to a 52% lower risk for school age children and a 31% lower risk among preschool age kids.
The study did not determine why children with dogs or farm animal exposure appeared to be less likely to develop asthma. However, the researchers say their findings fall in line with the hygiene hypothesis, which suggests that lack of exposure to germs and microbes during childhood could lead to more allergies, and that exposure can lead to a more favorable immune system.http://time.com/4096795/dog-asthma-risk-children/
According to the hygiene hypothesis, germs and bacteria are actually good for us. The sterile environments we try to create at home, daycare centers, and at schools is not benefiting our children. Anti-bacterial products are actually weakening our natural ability to fight infection and the medicine we rely on to fight it.
The University of California at San Diego explains:
The so-called “hygiene hypothesis,” first introduced in the late 1980s, suggests that a lack of early childhood exposure to infectious agents and microorganisms increases an individuals susceptibility to disease by changing how the immune system reacts to such “bacterial invaders.”
“These germs are actually good for us,” said Richard L. Gallo, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and pediatrics, chief of UCSD’s Division of Dermatology and the Dermatology section of the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System.http://ecochildsplay.com/2009/12/21/hygiene-hypothesis-proven-true-dirt-is-naturally-good-for-kids/
It’s not just allergy reduction proven by the Hygiene Hypothesis. There is evidence early exposure to dirt and germs actually helps prevent heart disease.
NBC News explains:
Early childhood viral infections might reduce the risk of developing heart disease later in life by as much as 90 percent, researchers from Sweden and Finland reported at the IV World Congress of Pediatric Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery.
According to the investigators, “improved hygiene in early childhood might partially explain the greatest epidemic of the 20th century — coronary heart disease.”http://ecochildsplay.com/2013/05/23/hygiene-hypothesis-linked-to-heart-disease-prevention/
Having a pet for a companion can be part of the normal germ exposure for optimal immune system development in young children. Pets not only support social and emotional growth in children, they also provide important immune building exposure to dander, dirt, and germs.
Childhood asthma rates are on the rise, and there appear to be many causes:
- New Columbia University Study: BPA Exposure in Young Children Increases Risk of Asthma
- Hold the Tylenol: Does Acetaminophen Cause Childhood Asthma?
- Student Digs Into Couch Cushions For Asthma Triggers
- Too Much TV: Television and Asthma Risk
- Traffic Pollution Changes Genes in the Womb and Increases Asthma Risk
- Swimming Pools, Chlorine and Asthma – What’s The Connection?
Clearly air pollution both in utero and out are the largest culprit of childhood asthma. Asthma is very scary and potentially deadly. To not be able to breath and the anxiety that comes with an attack is overwhelming for adults. The stress on families is overwhelming.
If owning a dog can offer a little protection from asthma, this is very good news.